Mudi Yahaya, For Crown and Country (2011)

Published in Telling Time, Rencontres de Bamako 10th edition, exhibition catalogue, November 2015

Mudi Yahaya, For Crown and Country, 2011. (c) the artist

Mudi Yahaya’s series of black-and-white photographs entitled For Crown and Country (2011), acknowledges the inconsistencies and slippages between actual events, layers of collective memory, and dominant narratives in the history of Nigeria. Combining figurative archival material with landscapes of historical import, shot in Northern Nigeria, the artist uses photography to re-stage meetings between British and Nigerian powers, thereby questioning the ways in which memories and truths are visually constructed. 

Since the British colonial occupation, leading to the unification of the northern and southern protectorates to form Nigeria in 1914, fraught socio-political relations between North and South have led to differing accounts of the past. Christianity, Islam, colonizer and colonized, education and economics, have all been instrumental in forming perspectives from which to remember and retell the country’s history. In For Crown and Country, Yahaya brings together these interlinking references. In a cemetery in Zungeru, once an operational headquarters of the British colonial army, white crosses jut out from the tombs and are haunted by the roaming figures of Northern dignitaries and British colonial officers. In Jos, the site of an old tin mine stages choreographed posturing and pleasantries between the two sides, yet their handshakes belie the untold consequences of colonial contracts for the extraction of natural resources. 

Returning to sites that staged defining events in the formation of Nigeria, Yahaya invokes the power of the landscape in recalling the past, positioning nature as the enduring witness of human exploit.  For Crown and Country is thus as much a study of individual actors, as it is an investigation of the role of photography in colonialism’s insidious rule. 


Mudi Yahaya born in 1968 in Kano, Nigeria – Lives in Lagos, Nigeria