Samuel Fosso (Cameroonian, b. 1962)

Fosso is a well-known African artist whose self-portraits explore new realms of gender-bending theatricality and celebrate cultural figures and leaders in the Civil Rights and African independence movements. Fosso began operating a photography studio in Nigeria that had a pair of platform boots–talons dames–similar to the ones worn by the popular Nigerian musician Prince Nico Mbarga on the cover of his record albums. Fosso wore these boots, as well as other custom-made props and costumes, in his series of photographs from the 1970s, drawing inspiration from African-American magazine cover girls. In self-portraits where he portrays famous Black people of the late nineties like Patrice Lumumba or Miles Davis, Fosso says ”I put on his clothes, and I enter his soul.” In this way, he brings his subjects back to life.

Samuel Fosso’s work has been internationally exhibited, including at Rencontres Africaines de la Photographie, Bamako, Mali; Centre National de la Photographie, Paris; Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; Maman Fine Art Gallery, Buenos Aires; National Portrait Gallery, London; and The Menil Collection, Houston. He earned First Prize in the African Photography Encounters and Dak’Art–Biennale de l’art Africain Contemporain, as well as the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds award. He lives and works in Bangui, Central African Republic.