A Complex Self-Portrait of Africa

A prizewinning Nigerian photographer has devoted himself to documenting his nation’s social and political growth, offering an alternative narrative to the usual story of Africans as victims.

Holding a retrospective exhibit after only 15 years as a professional photographer may seem unexpected. But such was the timing for Akintunde Akinleye, the only Nigerian photojournalist to have won a World Press Photo prize, in 2007. Since then, he has continued his work for Reuters, capturing life in the heart of Lagos, whose population of more than 20 million makes it Africa’s largest city.

Nigeria's Illegal Oil Refineries

Reuters photographer Akintunde Akinleye recently gained rare access to an illegal oil refinery near the river Nun in Nigeria's oil state of Bayelsa. There, he was able to document the secret and dangerous practice of oil bunkering, where locals hack into oil pipelines, steal the crude oil, and refine or sell it abroad. For over 50 years now, crude oil and natural gas have been extracted from the Niger Delta by large corporations, which have had their share of environmental disasters. The ongoing damage from the tapped pipes and these makeshift refineries continue to take a terrible toll on the environment and the local population