The last kings of Africa

Portrait of an African king. Agata cameo, second half of the 16th century; gold and enamel mount, 17th century BC.For the past five years, Austria-based art historian and photographer Alfred Weidinger has traveled across Africa in search of royalty. His photography project, The Last Kings of Africa, is his attempt to capture the beauty and mystique of the region’s most powerful sovereigns. So far he has photographed 220 tribal kings and leaders, with many more to go.

“I have a sort of deadline for myself — which is the end of next year. It’s not a question of the amount of kings or tribal leaders, it’s just a question of countries,” says Weidinger, who plans to visit Africa twice this year and six times in 2015.

“There are still countries I definitely want to visit, for example Swaziland and the southern part of Sudan.”

Weidinger’s photographic endeavors in Africa started in 1979 but the cumbersome equipment typical to that era quickly deterred the photographer. Fast forward 30 years, and a chance commission for a photographic exhibition sparked a long-term project where the lavish culture of Africa’s dynasties became the focus.

Weidinger had no definitive guide to help him locate all of Africa’s royals and tribal leaders. Armed with only two cameras and a tripod, his trips were mostly improvised.

“There is no list, there is nothing! So you just have to go there,” says Weidinger.

“The most important thing is to find one king — when I have one, he will guide me to the others.”

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