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The Borrowed Identities Of Cameroonian Self-Portrait Photographer Samuel Fosso

Cameroonian self-portrait photographer Samuel Fosso's solo exhibition is on display at the Walther Collection in New York City.

All images copyright Samuel Fosso, courtesy the Walther Collection and Jean Marc Patras Galerie


Born in 1962 in Kumba, Cameroon, award-winning contemporary photographer Samuel Fosso began his career taking wedding portraits and passport pictures at the tender age of thirteen. Originally of Igbo descent, Fosso lived with his grandparents in southeastern Nigeria as a young child but fled to escape the tumultuous violence that engulfed his family's village during the Biafran War. After spending two years as a refugee, Fosso finally settled in Bangui, Central African Republic, where he lived and worked as a cobbler with his shoemaker uncle. Unfulfilled with the shoemaker's life, Fosso diverted his attention to photography and spent a year working as a photographer's apprentice under the tutelage of a neighbor.

Fosso opened his own studio soon after and began to assume the role of both model and photographer by turning to self-portraits after he was done with a day's work. Fosso has remarked that his penchant for self-portraiture initially began as a way to keep his grandmother in Nigeria updated on his well being– but it also served as an inexpensive way for him to prevent wasting any unused rolls of film from his glamour photography work. Since they were created without the conceit attached to photographs intended for an audience outside of one's own family, Fosso's early self-portraits bear the markings of an adolescent playing dress up. Finding inspiration from popular fashion and music magazines of that era, Fosso would deck himself out in sunglasses, platform boots and wide-legged bell bottom pants in the privacy of his studio unwittingly creating a visual timeline of cosmpolitanism within Bangui's youth. These early works can be seen in the black and white series Self-Portraits from the 1970's and were taken in his first studio Studio Photo Nationale, which had as its motto: "With Studio National, you will be beautiful, stylish, dainty and easy to recognize."

Nicknamed "The Man of a Thousand Faces," Fosso's work embodies the complexities of identity and in his 1997 series Tati, he adopts a myriad of personas including a golfer, a pirate, and the liberated woman of the seventies. Fosso's personal and public work has always brought the transformative possibilities of photography to the fore and he does so again with his African Spirits series, a set of fourteen black and white images where the photographer reenacts iconic images of cult figures within African and African-American history. With African Spirits, Fosso pays homage to figures of the civil rights movement and Panafricanist heads of state like Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Davis, Tommie Smith, Muhammed AliKwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba and Haile Selassie to name a few. These and other studio portraits from his three decade long career are the the focus of a new exhibit from the Walther Collection's two-year exploration of photo and video narratives from contemporary African artists.

A well-known photographer in his own right within Bangui where he lived and worked for over thirty years before relocationg to Paris, Fosso's body of work was introduced to a wider audience in the early nineties after he won the top prize in the prestigious African Photography Encounters Festival. Since gaining the attention of the international art circuit, Fosso and his reflexive self-portraiture have been the subject of a BBC documentary and gone on display in groundbreaking exhibitions the world over including In/sight: African Photographers, 1940 to the Present at the Guggenheim, The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945-1994, Africa Remix: Contemporary Art of a Continent, and Events of the Self: Portraiture and Social Identity–Photography from The Walther Collection.

Samuel Fosso is now on display at the Walther Collection Project Space in New York City (526 West 26th Street, Suite 718) and runs through January 17, 2015.

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Artwork: Barthélémy Toguo Lockdown Selfportrait 10, 2020. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Goes to Paris in 2021

The longstanding celebration of African art will be hosted by Parisian hot spot Christie's for the first time ever.

In admittedly unideal circumstances, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair will be touching French soil in 2021. The internationally celebrated art fair devoted to contemporary art from Africa and the African diaspora will be hosted in Paris, France from January 20 - 23. With COVID-19 still having its way around the globe, finding new ways to connect is what it's all about and 1-54 is certainly taking the innovative steps to keep African art alive and well.
In partnership with Christie's, the in-person exhibits will take place at the auction house's city HQ at Avenue Matignon, while 20 international exhibitors will be featured online at Christies.com. And the fun doesn't stop there as the collaboration has brought in new ways to admire the talent from participating galleries from across Africa and Europe. The fair's multi-disciplinary program of talks, screenings, performances, workshops, and readings are set to excite and entice revelers.

Artwork: Delphine Desane Deep Sorrow, 2020. Courtesy Luce Gallery


The tech dependant program, curated by Le 18, a multi-disciplinary art space in Marrakech medina, will see events take place during the Parisian run fair, followed by more throughout February.
This year's 1-54 online will be accessible to global visitors virtually, following the success of the 2019's fair in New York City and London in 2020. In the wake of COVID-19 related regulations and public guidelines, 1-54 in collaboration with Christie's Paris is in compliance with all national regulations, strict sanitary measures, and security.

Artwork: Cristiano Mongovo Murmurantes Acrilico Sobre Tela 190x200cm 2019


1-54 founding director Touria El Glaoui commented, "Whilst we're sad not to be able to go ahead with the fourth edition of 1-54 Marrakech in February as hoped, we are incredibly excited to have the opportunity to be in Paris this January with our first-ever fair on French soil thanks to our dedicated partners Christie's. 1-54's vision has always been to promote vibrant and dynamic contemporary art from a diverse set of African perspectives and bring it to new audiences, and what better way of doing so than to launch an edition somewhere completely new. Thanks to the special Season of African Culture in France, 2021 is already set to be a great year for African art in the country so we are excited to be playing our part and look forward, all being well, to welcoming our French friends to Christie's and many more from around the world to our online fair in January."

Julien Pradels, General Director of Christie's France, said, "Christie's is delighted to announce our second collaboration with 1-54, the Contemporary African Art Fair, following a successful edition in London this October. Paris, with its strong links to the continent, is a perfect place for such a project and the additional context of the delayed Saison Africa 2020 makes this partnership all the more special. We hope this collaboration will prove a meaningful platform for the vibrant African art scene and we are confident that collectors will be as enthusiastic to see the works presented, as we are."


Artwork: Kwesi Botchway Metamorphose in July, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery 1957


Here's a list of participating galleries to be on the lookout for:

Galleries

31 PROJECT (Paris, France)
50 Golborne (London, United Kingdom)
Dominique Fiat (Paris, France)
Galerie 127 (Marrakech, Morocco)
Galerie Anne de Villepoix (Paris, France)
Galerie Cécile Fakhoury (Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire/ Dakar, Senegal)
Galerie Eric Dupont (Paris, France)
Galerie Lelong & Co. (Paris, France / New York, USA)
Galerie Nathalie Obadia (Paris, France / Brussels, Belgium)
Galleria Continua (Beijing, China / Havana, Cuba / Les Moulins, France / San Gimignano, Italy / Rome, Italy)
Gallery 1957 (Accra, Ghana / London, United Kingdom)
Loft Art Gallery (Casablanca, Morocco)

Luce Gallery (Turin, Italy)
MAGNIN-A (Paris, France)
Nil Gallery (Paris, France)
POLARTICS (Lagos, Nigeria)
SEPTIEME Gallery (Paris, France)
This is Not a White Cube (Luanda, Angola) THK Gallery (Cape Town, South Africa) Wilde (Geneva, Switzerland)

For more info visit 1-54

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