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Chief S.O. Alonge: Photographer to the Royal Court of Benin, Nigeria

Chief S.O. Alonge
Omo n’Oba n’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Akenzua II (reign 1933–78) understood the significance of photography in documenting and preserving the 20th-century history and traditions of the Benin kingdom. During his reign, Oba Akenzua reinstituted many social, political, and traditional practices prohibited by the British after the destruction of the royal palace and the exile of Oba Ovonramwen.

Chief Francis Edo Osagie
Benin City, Nigeria
c. 1960
In 1933, Oba Akenzua II chose S.O. Alonge to be the first official court photographer. As royal photographer and active member of the Iwebo palace society, Alonge was a loyal servant to the oba. He had privileged access to the palace and documented significant moments in the history of the Benin kingdom and the royal court, including the visit of the Earl of Plymouth in 1938. Alonge documented chieftaincy and title-taking ceremonies, and extensively photographed traditional ceremonies and cultural events. He photographed the iloi, the royal wives of the oba, in full ceremonial regalia and traditional hairstyle with coral beads, called “okuku,” at the palace during the Igue festival.

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