The Chief Solomon Osagie Alonge Collection
National Museum of African Art
Chief Solomon Osagie Alonge (1911-1994) was one of Nigeria’s première photographers and the first indigenous photographer of the Royal Court of Benin. His photographic collection consists of over 2,000 glass plate negatives and large format film negatives, over 100 hand-tinted and black-and-white prints and photographic albums. The photographer’s camera equipment and personal memorabilia round out the collection.
The Chief Alonge Collection spans six decades (1926 - 1989) and represents a dynamic, continuous record of the Benin Royal Court, Nigeria. As the Royal photographer to the Oba of Benin, Akenzua II (1933-1978), Alonge documented the pageantry, ritual and regalia of the Obas, their wives and retainers for over a half-century, including the coronation of the king and the Queen Mother, Iyoba. The collection also documents historic visits to Benin by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip (1956), Princess Alexandra (1960), foreign dignitaries, traditional rulers, political leaders and celebrities. It preserves an important historical record of Benin art and culture during the periods of British colonial rule and Nigerian independence in the twentieth century. The rarity and historical value of the collection are enhanced by Alonge’s privileged access to the Palace as a chief in the Iwebo Palace Society, a position which presents a unique insider’s view of Benin royalty. The collection is unique as an indigenously created visual record of life in colonial and post-colonial Nigeria. The quality and sheer survival of the collection is testament to Alonge’s technological skills in photography and his professionalism in keeping the collection ordered and well-preserved despite the heat, humidity and tropical climate of West Africa.