Chéri Samba

(b. 1956)

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(1956– )

Congolese painter, born in Kinshasa. He began working as a signpainter in the 1970s and was the founder of a school of ‘popular painting’ which derives its subjects from contemporary life. He became widely known in the West, especially France, after appearing in the 1989 Pompidou Centre exhibition ‘Les Magiciens de la Terre’ (see primitivism) and in 1997 was the first contemporary African artist to have a solo exhibition in the Musée d'Art d'Afrique et d'Océanie in Paris. His paintings have often dealt with the plight of Africans in Europe as well as issues in his native country. Frontier Airport: Country in the Process of Development (1979) shows a Western tourist bribing an official in an African country while being self-righteous about the corruption he himself is contributing to. Paris est propre (1996) draws attention to the role played by African immigrants in doing dirty work cleaning the capital city of rubbish, urine, and dog excrement. The Eiffel Tower is illuminated in the background and Samba ingeniously takes the livid green of the plastic brooms as a colour key for the whole composition. He emphasizes the didactic function of his paintings, which is often reinforced through captions.

Further Reading

M. Diawara, ‘Chéri Samba’, Artforum (November 1997)

Subjects: African Studies — Art.

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