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'The Murder,' 2017. By Pierre-Christophe Gam. Photo courtesy of the artist.

This Mixed Media Series Pays Homage To the Late Burkinabe Revolutionary—Thomas Sankara

"Sankara, The Upright Man" by Pierre-Christophe Gam is currently on view at DAK'ART Biennale 2018.

Multidisciplinary Cameroonian-Chadian artist Pierre-Christophe Gam's work, Sankara, The Upright Man, is a tribute to Thomas Sankara, the Burkinabe revolutionary.

Currently showing in La Villa Rouge, a DAK'ART OFF venue, The Upright Man is a mixed media installation examining the life and legacy the late president of Burkina Faso. Gam explores the myths surrounding his life and death, presenting him as one of the last Pan-African prophets as well as a "messiah."


Sankara was a humanist, feminist and ecologist who led his country from 1983 until his assassination in 1987 at the age of 37. His voice was notable in the fight against imperialism and neo-colonialism and this is what surely lead to his demise. He established programs for social and economic change on his continent and fought tirelessly for African self-reliance. Though a worldwide icon, his yearning for change would lead to his death during a social demonstration on October 15, 1987. This assassination would be administered by one of his closest friends, Blaise Compaoré, with assistance from global imperialists.

Gam weaves art and fashion together as he recounts Sankara's riveting narrative with the use of textiles, repetition, photography, drawing, pixel art, color, and computer generation.

'The Battle,' 2017. By Pierre-Christophe Gam. Photo courtesy of the artist.

The artist wrestles with what Burkina Faso could've been were it not for Sankara's passing: An ecological powerhouse? A self-sufficient agricultural marvel? A land free of corruption? A place noted for its celebration of women and their contributions? His questions take him on a journey where he speaks with Mariam Sankara, the president's widow, and reads a majority of her husband's texts and speeches.

It may not be evident to the viewer at first glance, but Gam is very detailed in his approach. He leaves no stones unturned. Everything seen matters. He treats Sankara's life as apocryphal gospels. In one image, we come across a former first lady of Burkina Faso, curvacious and sensual, holding a bottle of champagne with a makeshift freemason symbol on it, filled with blood. In another, we see the silhouette of Compaoré, his friend, "Judas," suspected of having killed him, being inaugurated in a circle of men all dawning black.

In the finality of it all, there are even powerful views of a Sankara lookalike being crucified, cradled by his widow and resurrected.

DAK'ART runs from Thursday, May 3, through Saturday, June 2nd. For more information, check out their website here, and keep up with the event on Instagram.

Audrey Lang is an alumna of Northeastern University and a Boston-based site merchandiser. A surveyor of life who's enamored with all things fashion, art and Africa, keep up with her on Instagram and Tumblr.

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This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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