At the end of 2022, the first large retrospective exhibition by the French Cameroon photographer Samuel Fosso (1962, Kumba, Cameroon) travels to Huis Marseille. Fosso’s unique body of work, which brings photography into the realm of performance art, holds a central position in the international contemporary art world. Having survived the civil war in Nigeria, the young Fosso moved in with his uncle in Bangui in the Central African Republic, where at the age of thirteen he set up his own photo studio. After a working day making flattering portraits of his customers, Fosso would experiment with self-portraits, creating a series of alter egos that cheerfully defy all conventions surrounding representation. Fosso’s self-portraits allow him to constantly reinvent himself and to skilfully circumvent the limitations conventionally imposed by society, geography and time. His work poses questions about the consequences of imposing norms of representation and identity, and joyfully celebrates freedom of expression.
In Huis Marseille, Samuel Fosso: A Retrospective comprises over two hundred of his works: vintage prints of his early black and white self-portraits from the 1970s; lively colour photographs from the 1990s in which he playfully reinterprets African and Afro-American characters and archetypes; the magisterial portraits of African Spirits from the early 2000s, in which he poses as icons of the pan-African liberation and civil rights movements; and more recent projects, including a collaboration with the British fashion designer Grace Wales Bonner. The exhibition, which embraces Samuel Fosso’s entire, almost 50-year career, is the first to bring all of his most celebrated series to the Netherlands at the same time.
Samuel Fosso: A Retrospective was created by the Maison Européenne de la Photographie (Paris) and will be shown at Huis Marseille and The Walther Collection (Neu-Ulm). The exhibition is accompanied by Autoportrait, published by Steidl, the first photobook to provide a comprehensive overview of Fosso’s oeuvre, together with essays and studies by leading researchers and writers including 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, who edited the book.