We may be too far away to enjoy the full exhibition, but I’m really chuffed to see the retrospective of Samuel Fosso doing the rounds, and in turn increase the visibility and appreciation of this artist. Right now Fosso’s work is in Huis Marseille, Amsterdam, with the first-ever large scale retrospective of the French-Cameroon photographer’s work. It’s an incredibly eclectic exhibition of self portraiture, with Fosso in all ages and aspects of life, donning high heels and a panama hat, restaging Esquire’s 1968 cover of an impaled Muhammad Ali or transformed as the first ever Black Pope. As Alex Morola writes, “Engaging with notions of perception, gender and sexuality, his experimental self-portraiture embodies a powerful way of existing in the world, bearing witness not only to post-colonial histories but to the remarkable story of Fosso’s own life.”
Samuel Fosso was born in Kumba, Cameroon, in 1962 and grew up in Nigeria. In 1972, as a young boy, he fled the Biafran War and 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 thirteen. In addition to his commercial work – passport photos, celebrations, and weddings – at the age of fifteen he began creating self-portraits. 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 the 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. His self-portraits can be found in the collections of international museums such as the Tate Modern in London, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac in Paris.
Samuel Fosso lives in Nigeria and France. If you’d like to see more of his work, check out: https://samuelfosso.com/