Home / Art  / Kikelomo Solomon-Ayeni’s Abstract Photos Elevate African Maternity

Kikelomo Solomon-Ayeni’s Abstract Photos Elevate African Maternity

Photography, while being a formidable artform in its own right, might sometimes be considered limited especially when compared with traditional paint on canvas. Kikelomo Solomon-Ayeni confidently refutes that notion with bold, experimental photography works that border on abstraction. These pieces are socially pressing and urgent as well, looking to draw awareness to the rising level of gender-based violence witnessed in Africa and beyond.


Growing up, Kikelomo’s first camera was of a disposable make. It was brought home by her dad who frequented the United Kingdom at the time. Her parents and immediate family did not show any affinity towards the arts. Tragedy struck shortly after, leaving Kike orphaned and solely responsible for her two younger sisters. Seeing her interest in photography, a cousin of hers, Ramat paid her transport to enquire about photography training from Seun Akinsami, who owned Elophotos. 


Mr. Akinsami saw her passion and decided to waive training fees for the 16 months that she would intern. Kike would show relentlessness and trek three hours from her home to the shop to learn. “My dedication to learning and implementing lessons made Mr Seun pick further interest in me.” She said, “He would give me stipends for transport and sometimes buy me lunch. In December 2010, Mr Seun certified me good enough to launch into the photography world and he gave me my first camera, Olympus E-500. With this camera I was able to create images that paid for my final year in the university.”


Kikelomo Solomon-Ayeni

African Preggy Ready to Party


Her recent project, African Preggy Ready To Party, which is showing currently at Madeke Art Gallery in the UK features pregnant women in traditional and contemporary attires. These women represent a level of divinity that Africans, Yoruba people especially ascribe to maternity in their societal hierarchy. Kikelomo chooses to pass across this message in a profound manner. Her pictures are monochrome, clear, crisp– with much of the fanfare or style within these images implied rather than emphasized. 


With the 9th entry into the “African Preggy Ready To Party” series, Kikelomo Solomon-Ayeni challenges purity culture by exploring a level of duality that women carry within themselves. Her pregnant subject has two personalities sharing one body. In the first half, the subject stares into her palm like she’s reading. It is assertive, it seems as if the woman on this side of the picture takes charge. The other side receives, with her hands down like she’s accepting prayers from her Imam. The duality of learning and imparting.


Kikelomo leans into silhouettes, images within images– layers to pass across her point. Her subjects– being pregnant under different circumstances is very striking on first impression. In conversation, she opens up “ If a pregnant woman smiles, then it is either the child in her womb gave her beautiful nudges or she was given something that she craved for. I love the fact that I was able to create a 2 in 1 story. Viewers of the picture can choose the side of the story they like.”


These works are so unique and different that one must wonder what inspired her to go this direction. “My inspiration,” Kikelomo shares, “Stems from my past. I am a survivor of child sexual abuse. I am self-motivated every day to use all my talents and opportunities to reduce and hopefully end all forms of sexual and gender-based violence”.


African Preggy Ready to Party – Kikelomo Solomon-Ayeni

You can see through her works that she’s trying to reclaim the narrative that society imposes on the modern woman. From images within her last series, allusions can be drawn to defiance. Take for example, the pictures of pregnant women in party attire, they seem to declare “I cannot be boxed in or defined by society.” You see, in yoruba culture, partying when pregnant is frowned up and dismissed as careless or deviant behaviour. 


And right in the picture after that, we see this woman calm and composed, praying. According to Kikelomo, “The images tell the story of African pregnant women in a subtle mix of contemporary and old-fashioned(still valued today) outfits set to attend a party. One thing was common to them ‘Gele” (head gear). An African woman’s traditional attire is never complete with a head tie.” 


Kikelomo Solomon-Ayeni’s “African Preggy Ready To Party ” has appeared in multiple exhibitions: at the Casa Del Arte in Spain, the Nicoleta Gallery in Berlin and the Cipriarte Venezia in Italy. She also has a project showing at the Holy Art Gallery in London, with another project set to release in Christmas, 2024 as at the time of this review.


Read more reviews and pieces about culture and art on The Blotted. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @onetinyblot



Oyedele is passionate about culture and arts. Engage on instagram and twitter, @omoalokan