Akinbode Akinbiyi was born in Oxford in 1946. He 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 as an autodidact and, he lived in Heidelberg and Munich, finally moved to West Berlin where he has lived ever since. He is among the most well known African photographers and is internationally an curator and writer.
Akinbode Akinbiyi’s pictures have been shown at exhibitions and biennials in Tokyo, Paris, Philadelphia, Johannesburg and Havana, and have been published in various magazines. His focuses are reportage, architectural and cultural photography.
In 1987, he received reportage scholarship from Stern magazine; the ensuing picture series of the West African cities of Dakar, Kano and Lagos brought him renown. In 1993 he and close friends founded the UMZANSI cultural centre in Durban, South Africa.
Akinbode Akinbiyi has curated a number of exhibitions for the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (ifa), including STADTanSICHTEN – LAGOS (2004) and Spot on DAK’ART – Die 8. Biennale zeitgenössischer afrikanischer Kunst (2009) presented at the Ifa galleries in Berlin and Stuttgart. In 2003 he curated the German contribution to the Rencontres de Bamako – Biennale de la Photographie Africaine in Bamako, Mali.
He is a tireless intercultural mediator who prefers to explore the urban centres of Africa and Europe on foot and illuminate them with his mechanical, analogue medium-format camera, he ranks among the most important representatives of Germany in the present African photography scene. A few years ago, in cooperation with the Goethe-Institut Nigeria, he initiated a master class for young Nigerian photographers, from which the pan-African project “Centers of learning for photography in Africa” developed to network photography schools in sub-Saharan Africa. In numerous workshops, training sessions and master classes across the continent, notably in Sudan, but also in Ethiopia, South Africa and Congo, the mentor Akin Akinbiyi has been able to pass on his experience to young photographers.
In 2008 he was on the jury of the World Press Photo Award. His main exhibitions include Tales from a Globalizing World (2003-2007 in Brussels, Dhaka, Geneva, Cairo and other locations), Africa Remix (2004-2007 in Düsseldorf, London, Paris, Tokyo, Stockholm and Johannesburg), Sea never dry (2005 at the Staatliche Museum für Völkerkunde in Dresden), Adama in Wonderland (2013-14 at the Goethe-Institut Johannesburg) and Three Photographers/Six Cities (2016 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art). In addition to his artistic and curatorial activities, he is also active as a writer. Among other things, he writes the notes for his own exhibitions and co-authored Just Ask!, a publication about and for the contemporary African and international photography scene in 2014. In 2016
Akinbode’s article by him was published in the catalogue of the Kenyan photographer Mimi Cherono Ng’ok, Always, in Spite of Everything. Akin Akinbiyi will participate with new works in document 14 in 2017, which will be held in Athens and Kassel.
Quotes by Akinbode Akinbiyi
“I move very slowly and gently, I try not to invade other people’s spaces, while at the same time trying to take images. It is a sort of dance, a negotiation, meandering – a very sensitive way of moving through all kinds of spaces.” (Akinbode Akinbiyi in an interview, GoetheInstitut Johannesburg, 2013)
“My work is an attempt to understand cities and urban life today. Over the past years I’ve realised 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.” (Akinbode Akinbiyi in an interview, Goethe-Institut Johannesburg, 2013)
“I consider myself a wanderer, somebody who wanders and at the same time wonders ... It is my way of coming to grips with the world around me, which for my current work is urban space.” (Akinbode Akinbiyi in an interview, Goethe-Institut Johannesburg, 2013)
1993 Durhammer Galerie, Frankfurt
1995 LiteraturWerkstatt, Berlin
1996 MALOKA, documenta Halle, Kassel
2003 - 2007 Tales from a globalizing World, Brussels, Dhaka, Geneva, Havana, Cairo, Krakow, New York
2004 - 2007 Africa Remix, Düsseldorf, Johannesburg, London, Paris, Stockholm, Tokyo
2005 Sea never dry, Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde Dresden
2008 Common Place, Alte Pathologie P40, Hamburg
2013 Adama in Wonderland, Goethe-Institut, Johannesburg
2016 Three Photographers/Six Cities, Philadelphia Museum of Art