Self-taught photographer Akinbode Akinbiyi reveals the reality of everyday life in Lagos and other megacities. A 2016 Goethe Medal winner, he is a significant mediator between sub-Saharan Africa and Germany.
Every year the Goethe-Institut honors people who have conveyed the German language and promoted international cultural relations. This year's main theme is "Migration of Cultures - Cultures of Migration."
The 2016 awardees Akin Akinbiyi from Nigeria, Yurii Andrukhovych from Ukraine and David Lordkipanidze from Georgia are three highly renowned individuals who have "rendered outstanding services to cultural exchange between their home countries and Germany - each in their own specific areas of work," says the Goethe-Institut.
Photographer Akin Akinbiyi, who has lived in Berlin since the early 1990s, is considered one of the most important artistic mediators between Germany and sub-Saharan Africa. Akinbode Akinbiyi was born in Oxford in 1946, grew up in Lagos and in England, and studied Literature and English in Nigeria, England and Germany.
In the mid-1970s he began to photograph without any prior training. He taught himself and gradually developed his skills. He is now among the most well-known African photographers and is internationally active as a curator and writer. Akinbode Akinbiyi's pictures have been shown at exhibitions worldwide, and have been published in various magazines. His focuses are reportage, architectural and cultural photography.
Passion for photography
Asked by the Goethe-Institut in 2013 what drives his passion for photography, he said, "My work is an attempt to understand cities and urban life today. Over the past years I've realized that I am looking for my childhood, that kind of innocence and childlikeness that I had growing up in London and Lagos, and which I feel is no longer there. Whenever I find such moments - fragments of this lost innocence - I take photographs."
The main focus of his work are rapidly growing and changing African megacities. A defining moment for him was when he received the 1987 reportage scholarship from the German magazine Stern. He won for his picture series on the West African cities of Dakar, Kano and Lagos that he had shot during this time that made him famous.
Akinbiyi will be showing new works at the documenta 14, which will be held in Athens and Kassel next year.