Samuel Fosso is one of the most renowned artists working in Africa today. He was born in 1962, in Kumba, Cameroon, near the border with Biafra in Nigeria. In 1972, he moved from Nigeria to Bangui, Central African Republic in order to escape the Biafran War. He briefly worked as an assistant photographer before running his own photography studio during his adolescence. There, he would dress up in fashionable outfits and deck himself out with props to take self-portraits after work.
Fosso’s body of work is a collection of powerful photographic images on which he is wearing different disguises. In the series African Spirits (2008), he paid tribute to historical icons such as Haile Selassie, Kwame Nkrumah, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Angela Davis, among many others. In Dream of My Grandfather (2003), he is dressed in traditional Igbo attire, as a reincarnation of his grandfather, or as a traditional healer in realization of a career that his grandfather had wished for him.
In Emperor of Africa (2013), Fosso examines political agendas and cultural arenas by imitating Mao Zedong in a series of visually stunning photographs. There is a fine line between the straight-faced insouciance with which he clothes himself in the identity of an ‘other’ and the revolutionary subtext implicit in these magisterial images.