Using Pictures to Reimagine Yoruba Folk Tales in Nigeria

When Nigerian novelist Amos Tutuola’s book My Life in the Bush of Ghosts was initially published in 1954, it was praised around the world for its richly inventive take on Nigerian folklore.


At home, however, the story—a Yoruba folk tale of a boy who escapes war into a forbidden world of ghosts and spirits—was largely dismissed by the intellectual elite, who felt the language, written in the fantastical and naive perspective of a child, was a diversion from the “proper English” impressed upon them from their colonialist past.


But it was Tutuola’s whimsical use of language that gave his drama a magical sense, captivating audiences in Britain, Africa, and America. The novel is now considered compulsory Nigerian reading, and it inspired musician David Byrne, who, along with Brian Eno, made a revolutionary, but originally criticised, album of the same name.

The book continues to captivate new readers, including Spanish photographer Cristina de Middel—an artist and documentary photographer whose previous investigation of African history, Afronauts, reimagined photos from Zambia’s aborted space programme in the 1960s.