In November 2021, the MEP gathered, for the first time in France, the entire works of Samuel Fosso. This retrospective travels around the world and is presented until November 18th, 2022 at the Walther Collection de Neu-Ulm, Germany.
Since the mid-1970s, Samuel Fosso has dedicated his artistic practice to self-portraits and performative photography, transforming his body and envisioning compelling variations of postcolonial African identities.
In 1975, at the age of thirteen, Fosso opened his Studio Photo Nationale in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. His work reflects the shifts that occurred in the history of photography in Africa when Africans started to turn the camera onto themselves and began to visualize and embody postcolonial perspectives.
This exhibition brings together emblematic series and more confidential works, old and unpublished photographs, in a mostly serial approach. It reflects the artistic work of Samuel Fosso but also his personal journey.
Samuel Fosso dedicates this exhibition to the memory of Okwui Enwezor.
Born in Kumba, Cameroon, in 1962 and raised in Nigeria, Samuel Fosso fled the Biafran War as a young boy, and in 1972 was taken in by an uncle in Bangui in the Central African Republic. He learned about photography thanks to a neighbour, who trained him and helped him set up his own photo studio at the age of 13.
In addition to his commercial work (passport photos, celebrations, weddings), he began making self-portraits at the age of 15. Inspired by the pop-culture magazines he managed to find in Bangui, he photographed himself in outfits that he had custom-made by local tailors.
After being discovered by French photographer Bernard Descamps, Samuel Fosso exhibited his self-portraits for the first time in 1994 at the Rencontres Africaines de la Photographie (African Photography Encounters) festival in Bamako, where his work met with great success.
In 1997, he was invited to exhibit in France thanks to a commission to create new work for the fiftieth anniversary of Tati, the French department-store chain, alongside such photographers as William Klein, Dominique Issermann and Sarah Moon.
He was awarded the Afrique en Création prize in 1995, and in 2001 was the recipient of the Prince Claus Award. His self-portraits can be found in the collections of international museums such as Tate in London, and the Centre Georges Pompidou and the musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac in Paris. In 2017, a solo exhibition of his work was held at the National Portrait Gallery in London. In 2020, the monograph Autoportrait, the first comprehensive survey of Samuel Fosso’s work, was published by Steidl, with an interview between the artist and the late Okwui Enwezor, the influential art critic and curator.
Samuel Fosso lives between Nigeria and France.