This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
preceding pages: Problème d’eau, 2004, acrylic on canvas, 135 x 200 cm. Les Tours de Babel dans le monde, 1998, acrylic and glitter on canvas, 130 x 203 cm.
Photo: Patrick Gries. © the artist. Courtesy CAAC–Pigozzi Collection, Geneva Photo: Patrick Gries. © the artist. Courtesy CAAC–Pigozzi Collection, Geneva
CHERI SAMBA LIVES AND WORKS IN KINSHASA, the dynamic but from ‘forgotten continents’. The exhibition so inspired private collector
dilapidated capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. His paintings Jean Pigozzi that he promptly asked one of its curators, André Magnin,
reflect and satirise the social and political realities around him. “I just to help him establish his Contemporary African Art Collection in
want to tell the truth and ask relevant questions”, he says, “to choose Geneva. Now extensive, the Pigozzi Collection has done much to
surprising subjects that make people think.” This sort of thing is not support and promote the visibility of Samba and others through loans
generally considered safe practice in Congo’s fragile young democracy, to the likes of 100% Africa last year at Bilbao’s Guggenheim and the
but like a skilled jester, Samba preserves his artistic freedom by sugaring current Popular Painters display at Tate Modern in London.
his more bitter messages with plenty of humour, bright acrylic colours Although he readily admits the good fortune of his encounter
and glitter. with Magnin and Pigozzi, Samba cherishes his independence and
Samba’s signature style, which is derived from commercial remains the primary promoter of his own brand. He is also an energetic
signpainting and comic strips, is distinctive for its detailed ambassador for his fellow Congolese artists, even featuring some of
draughtsmanship and bold use of colour and text (in Lingala and them in his paintings. Asked what this group has in common with the
French, the first two languages of Kinshasa). He often portrays himself many artists he has visited elsewhere in Africa, Magnin says, “There’s
in the scenes he depicts, the better to engage the viewer and share a constant interest in community and the collective. Solidarity, even
the joke. in the big megacities, is one of the great strengths of Africa. Colour
He may be one of Africa’s most recognised artists, but Samba is often predominant; I think it’s associated with hope. Despite difficult
is naturally excited about his first invitation to Venice. “I always thought living conditions, there is a lot more optimism and humour than you
the Biennale was reserved for the sort of people who sell their might expect.”
paintings for millions of dollars,” he says. “When Mr Storr invited me to Samba is proud of his African identity, but as he once told
participate, it was too much, I couldn’t get over it. But it was also a sort Magnin, “I don’t want to have any limits, and I’m not interested in being
of confirmation, because I have always felt that I was heading for this categorised. Whatever an artist’s background and roots, he has to be
sort of summit, that this time would come.” understood all over the world. You’re born in one place but you don’t
Samba has been exhibiting in Kinshasa since 1978, but his major only speak about that place.” In keeping with this, the works selected
international breakthrough came with his participation in Magiciens de la for Storr’s Art in the Present Tense carry globally relevant messages. The
terre (1989) at the Pompidou Centre, which featured contemporary art artist comments on three of them:
ARTREVIEW one.lintwo.linzero.lin
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