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Samuel Fosso: A Retrospective

7/9/2022 — 10/20/2022

The Walther Collection presents the first major retrospective devoted to the French-Cameroonian photographer Samuel Fosso, one of the most renowned African contemporary artists. The exhibition brings together Fosso’s work from The Walther Collection with other emblematic series and unpublished photographs from his youth. They complement each other to retrace a path that oscillates between intimate introspection and collective narratives.

Though the genre of self-fiction, and more particularly self-portraiture, has been widely used by artists since the 1970s, Samuel Fosso has given this practice a new scope, both political and historical, fictional and intimate. With more than 200 works, mixing vintage prints from the 1970s, energetic color and black and white series from the 1990s and 2000s, and recent projects such as the monumental series of Polaroids "SIXSIXSIX," this exhibition offers an extensive overview of Samuel Fosso’s oeuvre in the last fifty years.

Born in 1962 in Cameroon, Samuel Fosso began his career at a very young age as a studio photographer, in the tradition of Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé. Since the mid-1970s, Fosso has focused on self-portraiture and performance, envisioning variations of identity in the postcolonial era. Spanning his early self-portraits in black-and-white from the 1970s to his most recent exercises in self-presentation, this retrospective highlights his remarkable body of work including the vibrant and colorful series "Tati" (1997). In this series, Fosso playfully embodies various stereotypical characters such as The Liberated American Woman, The Golfer or The Rocker. Through these satirical and biting images, Fosso deeply questions the notion of personal and social identity. This ability to blend himself into other lives helps him gain the freedom to invent and narrate himself. In the series "African Spirits" (2008), Fosso poses, with uncanny precision, as icons of the pan-African liberation and Civil Rights movements, such as Patrice Lumumba, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Angela Davis.

For Fosso, posing in front of the lens as significant historical figures and social archetypes is a way of bringing his existence into the world, and demonstrating the power of the photographic medium in constructing political visibilities.

Samuel Fosso: A Retrospective is a touring exhibition in collaboration between The Walther Collection, Maison Européenne de la Photographie (Paris) and Huis Marseille (Amsterdam). On the occasion of the exhibition, Steidl will publish the French edition of Autoportrait, the first comprehensive survey of Samuel Fosso’s oeuvre with essays and research by leading scholars and writers. Edited by Okwui Enwezor, it includes contributions by Quentin Bajac, Simon Baker, Yves Chatap, Elvira Dyangani Ose, Chika Okeke-Agulu, Oluremi C. Onabanjo, Jean Marc Patras, Terry Smith, Claire Staebler, James Thomas, and Artur Walther, as well as an in-depth conversation between Samuel Fosso and Okwui Enwezor.

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