Chéri Samba is one of those self taught painter through whom urban sign art was given international recognition. Chéri Samba is a billboard painter and a comic artist based in Kinshasa. He is the son of a blacksmith father and his mother a farmer who got his breakthrough from the exhibition Les Magiciens de la Terre ( Curator : Jean Hubert Martin) at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris in 1989.
His paintings relates with everyday life – political issues, social inequity, AIDS and corruption in his home country capital, Kinshasa. He uses image with text and word bubbles with bright and cheerful colours to tell his stories. Often seen on his work surfaces is French, English, Lingala and a French patois which he uses to narrate his pictures. From the 1980s, Samba began to portray himself more in his works, playing the direct role of reporting his ideas and personal story on what it means to be a successful African artist on the world stage.
Place of Birth: Kinto M’Vuila, Democratic Republic of Congo
Date of Birth: December 30, 1956
He got inspired by Apuza’s paintings which was displayed on a main street, he later got apprenticed by him and became his partner. Samba opened his own workshop in 1975 and since then his audience were not just natives of Kinshasa but also to the Europeans in Kinshasa. His first exhibition was in 1979, after which he adopted Chéri Samba as his professional name the following year. In 1982 his paintings were exhibited for the first time in Europe, and ever since then his works have been well received by the international audience.
The texts that I introduce on my canvases translate the thoughts of the people I depict in a given situation. It is a way of not allowing freedom of interpretation to a person who looks at my painting. For me, my work is incomplete if there aren’t any texts; they symbolize the fantasy.
Some of Samba’s major exhibitions includes: The first Biennial of Contemporary Bantu Art (Libreville, 1985); Magiciens de la terre (Paris, 1989) and Africa Explores: 20th Century African Art (New York, 1991); The Global Contemporary Art Worlds (2011/2012); JAPANCONGO: Carsten Höllerʼs double-take on Jean Pigozziʼs collection, Le Magasin, Centre national d’Art Contemporain, Grenoble, France (2011); The Venice Biennale Italian Pavillon Venice, Italia (2008); Africa Remix Art contemporain d’un continent, Travelling exhibition: Germany, UK, France, Tokyo (2004).
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