Samuel Fosso: Affirmative Acts
Organized by Princeton University Art Museum in collaboration with The Walther Collection

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In the fall of 2022, The Walther Collection collaborated with Princeton University Art Museum to present Samuel Fosso: Affirmative Acts, the first major U.S. survey of one of the most renowned contemporary artists working in photography today. The exhibition, curated by Princeton University Professor Chika Okeke-Agulu with Silma Berrada, Lawrence Chamunorwa, Maia Julis, and Iheanyi Onwuegbucha, was on view at Art on Hulfish in downtown Princeton from November 19 to January 29, 2023, and offered American audiences a comprehensive introduction to Fosso’s artistic oeuvre.

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Samuel Fosso, "70's Lifestyle," 1977
© Samuel Fosso. Courtesy Jean Marc Patras, Paris.
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Samuel Fosso, Le Chef qui a vendu l'Afrique aux colons [The Chief who Sold Africa to the Colonists], from the series "Tati," 1997
© Samuel Fosso. Courtesy Jean Marc Patras, Paris.

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The Nigerian-Cameroonian artist Samuel Fosso (b. 1962) is arguably one of the most compelling photographers working in the genre of self-portraiture today. Samuel Fosso: Affirmative Acts surveys Fosso’s work since 1975, when he established his first studio as a popular photographer in Bangui, Central African Republic (CAR). In his early career, besides the portraits he made of his clients, Fosso began producing auto-portraits in which he used dress, make up and performance to invoke 1970s highlife, rock and roll, and yé-yé music and pop culture. From the 1990s onwards, he assumed multiple identities and gender roles in his conceptual portraiture series to highlight the connections between individual and collective aspirations, capitalist consumption, and global commerce: through sartorial signifiers and symbolic gestures, he transformed himself into iconic nationalist and civil rights figures from Africa and the diaspora; he reflected on Africa’s complicated encounters with European colonialism, Christianity, and a resurgent China; and engaged in vigorous self-analysis and reflection.

For Fosso, self-portraiture becomes at once a form of masking, revelation, and self-affirmation; a theatrical event; and a performance social commentary – exploring pan-African identities and the relationships of the self to imagined community, individual fantasies, and collective aspirations.

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Samuel Fosso, "Le Rocker (The Rocker)," from the series "Tati," 1997
© Samuel Fosso. Courtesy Jean Marc Patras, Paris.
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Samuel Fosso, "L'Homme d'affaires (The Businessman)," from the series "Tati," 1997
© Samuel Fosso. Courtesy Jean Marc Patras, Paris.
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Samuel Fosso, "Angela Davis," from the series "African Spirits," 2008
© Samuel Fosso. Courtesy Jean Marc Patras, Paris.

Loaned Works

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