With their brightly coloured robes, ornate thrones and legions of flunkeys attending every whim, they seem every bit the archetypal African kings.
Nigeria’s traditional Monarchs may have been stripped of their powers half a century ago, but they appear to have lost little of their regal pomp and splendour as this fascinating series of portraits shows.
Photographer George Osodi toured the west African country extensively for a series of photographs entitled ‘Kings of Nigeria’ which is due to be exhibited at London’s Bermondsey Project in October.
As a well-known and celebrated Nigerian photographer, Mr Osodi was granted rare access to the palaces and throne rooms of these hereditary rulers who now serve as living repositories of Nigeria’s enormous cultural heritage.
He told Al-Jazeera: ‘There are frequent clashes among different ethnic groups… Lots of people have lost trust in their identity. I felt it was important that we see this diverse culture as a point of unity instead of seeing it as something that should divide us as a nation.
‘The easiest way I could approach this was to look at the monarchy structure in the country because they are closer to the people than the governors.’
While their ancestors ruled over vast tracts of Africa, following the abolition of the monarchy in 1963 the regional monarchs were stripped of all their constitutional powers. But far from fading into obscurity, they mostly remain popular leaders and are held in great regard by their hundreds of thousands of loyal subjects.
And despite lacking any formal powers they continue to wield considerable influence and serve as unofficial intermediaries between their subjects and the Nigerian government.