Chéri Samba

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Chéri Samba
David Samba

(1956-12-30) 30 December 1956 (age 62)
Known forpainting

Chéri Samba or Samba wa Mbimba N’zingo Nuni Masi Ndo Mbasi (born 30 December 1956) is a painter from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is one of the most famous contemporary African artists, with his works being included in the collections of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. A large number of his paintings are also found in The Contemporary African Art Collection (CAAC) of Jean Pigozzi.[1] He has been invited to participate in the 2007 Venice Biennale. His paintings almost always include text in French and Lingala, commenting on life in Africa and the modern world. Samba lives in Kinshasa and Paris.


Chéri Samba was born in Kinto M’Vuila, Democratic Republic of Congo, as the elder son of a family of 10 children. His father was a blacksmith and his mother a farmer. In 1972, at the age of 16 Samba left the village to find work as a sign painter in the capital of Kinshasa, where he encountered such artists as Moké and Bodo. This group of artists, including Samba's younger brother Cheik Ledy, came to constitute one of the country's most vibrant schools of popular painting.

In 1975 Samba opened his own studio. At the same time he also became an illustrator for the entertainment magazine Bilenge Info. Working both as a billboard painter and a comic-strip artist, he used the styles of both genres when he began making his paintings on sacking cloth. He borrowed the use of "word bubbles" from comic-strip art, which allowed him to add not only narrative but also commentary to his compositions, thus giving him his signature style of combining painting with text. His work earned him some local fame. In 1979 Samba participated in the exhibition Moderne Kunst aus Afrika, organized in West Berlin. The exhibition was part of the program of the first festival Horizonte - Festival der Weltkulturen.

He is the central figure in the 1982 documentary film Kin Kiesse, offering his thoughts on life in Kinshasa. According to the film's director, Mwezé Ngangura, Samba was instrumental in the making of the film, convincing the French Ministry of Co-operation, France 2 and Congolese television that Ngangura could make a film on Kinshasa.[2]

Samba's breakthrough was the exhibition Les Magiciens de la Terre at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris in 1989, which made him known internationally.

In 2007, curator Robert Storr invited Samba to participate in the 52nd International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale, entitled "Think with the Senses—Feel with the Mind. Art in the Present Tense", and described by The Huffington Post as "certainly 'the exhibition' of this new Century".[3]

Main exhibitions[edit]

  • 2011/2012: The Global Contemporary Art Worlds After 1989, Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe, Germany
  • 2011: JAPANCONGO: Carsten Höllerʼs double-take on Jean Pigozziʼs collection, Le Magasin, Centre national d'Art Contemporain, Grenoble, France
  • 2007/2008: Why Africa? Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, Turin, Italy
    • Popular Painting from Kinshasa, Tate Modern (Room 10), London, UK
  • 2007: The Venice Biennale, Italian Pavilion, Venice, Italia
  • 2004: Africa Remix: Art contemporain d’un continent. Travelling exhibition: Germany, UK, France, Tokyo


  1. ^ Contemporary African Art Collection, Geneva - Paintings and bio
  2. ^ Cham, Mbye (2 July 2008). "Interview with Mweze Ngangura". OurFilms: Films from the African Diaspora. African Film Festival. Retrieved 17 March 2012.
  3. ^ Raymond J. Learsy, "The Venice Biennale, A European Triumph, A Global Cast, and a Great American Art Director", The Huffington Post, 7/6/2007.


External links[edit]