The Herald (Harare)

5 February 2013

Zimbabwe: National Gallery, Alliance Francaise Team Up

The National Gallery of Zimbabwe in collaboration with Alliance Francaise are staging a joint exhibition comprising 34 series of self-portraits from one of Africa's renowned artists, Samuel Fosso of Cameroon.

Running under the theme "Everyone Feels Beautiful", the exquisite portraits and photography are from the 1970s to 2008. The show will run until March 25.

Curated by Raphel Chikukwa, the show emphasises on the importance and roles played by some of the African icons of black identity, cultural leaders to the civil rights movement.

Fosso takes on the persona of several blacks throughout history with images of Martin Luther King, Malcom X and Muhammad Ali.

Some of the notable portraits on display are of African leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, Nelson Mandela and Samora Machel.

Another enticing series entitled "Tati" shows Fosso dressed up like fictionalised characters. Both series reflect on Fosso's experimentation of portraiture and self-empowerment.

The exhibition questions the viewer on how we look on each other and how nationalists and the Diasporans shaped the discourse of identity. Fosso was born in Cameroon, then lived in Nigeria as a child, but was forced to leave at the end of the Biafran War in 1972.

He moved to Bangui, in the Central Afican Republic, where he found work as an assistant photographer. Six months later, at the age of 13, he opened his own photographic portrait studio.

He started taking self-portraits sending them to his mother in Nigeria, whom he had left behind as a refugee.

Although his initial aim was to show that he was alive and well, his interest in exploring the genre grew steadily and he experimented with new techniques and poses.

Fosso's work has been published around the world, and shown in major global venues as the Photograghers Gallery, London, and the Guggenheim Museum, New York.

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