Fragile Legacies showcases the extraordinary photographs of Chief Solomon Osagie Alonge (1911–1994), one of Nigeria’s premier photographers and the first official photographer to the royal court of the Benin kingdom. Alonge’s photographs document a half-century of the Benin palace and the rituals, pageantry, and regalia of the obas (kings), and provide rare insight into the early histories and practices of studio photography in West Africa. His insider status provides an important perspective for examining the transformations of Benin City during the early to mid-twentieth century.
This volume explores the contemporary significance of S.O. Alonge’s photography and its relationship to the visual arts and cultures of the Benin-Edo peoples. It is the result of a unique collaboration between the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, to preserve, research, and publish the Alonge collection and to reveal its historical, artistic, and cultural significance to global audiences.