In Bloodflowers W. Ian Bourland examines the photography of Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955–1989), whose art is a touchstone for cultural debates surrounding questions of gender and queerness, race and diaspora, aesthetics and politics, and the enduring legacy of slavery and colonialism. Born in Nigeria, Fani-Kayode moved between artistic and cultural worlds in Washington, DC, New York, and London, where he produced the bulk of his provocative and often surrealist and homoerotic photographs of black men. Bourland situates Fani-Kayode's work in a time of global transition and traces how it exemplified and responded to profound social, cultural, and political change. In addition to his formal analyses of Fani-Kayode's portraiture, Bourland outlines the important influence that surrealism, neo-Romanticism, Yoruban religion, the AIDS crisis, experimental film, loft culture, and house and punk music had on Fani-Kayode's work. In so doing, Bourland offers new perspectives on a pivotal artist whose brief career continues to resonate with deep aesthetic and social meaning.
Introduction. Nothing to Lose 1
Exposure 1. Brixton 23
Exposure 2. Rage and Desire 58
Exposure 3. Magnolia Air 91
Exposure 4. The Queen Is Dead 146
Exposure 5. Mirror Worlds 171
Exposure 6. Night Moves 209
Epilogue. Homecoming 250
“Exhaustively researched and beautifully written, W. Ian Bourland's Bloodflowers is a breathtaking account of Rotimi Fani-Kayode's career that combines histories of Western, African, and Afro-diasporic art with a deep consideration of the worlds through which the artist moved. Bloodflowers rigorously elucidates the formal, social, and political force of Fani-Kayode's oeuvre; moreover, it offers a new history of photography and diaspora art that troubles standard accounts of late twentieth-century postmodernism, multiculturalism, and queer art.”
Steven Nelson, University of California, Los Angeles
“A timely contribution to a growing body of scholarship celebrating the late Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Bloodflowers is a deeply insightful and long-overdue study dedicated to a pioneering—and often overlooked—figure in 1980s diasporic image-making. In this fitting tribute, W. Ian Bourland takes us on a mesmerizing journey, offering new positions and context regarding Fani-Kayode’s transgressive photographic oeuvre—critical reading for anyone interested in contemporary art, photography, race, Africanist art history, visual culture, and queer politics. Chapeau!”
Renée Mussai, Senior Curator and Head of Curatorial, Archive & Research at Autograph ABP, London
"Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals."