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Le Chef: Celui Qui A Vendu L’Afrique Aux Colons (The Chief who Sold Africa to the Colonists)

Le Chef: Celui Qui A Vendu L’Afrique Aux Colons (The Chief who Sold Africa to the Colonists)
signed 'Samuel Fosso' (on a label affixed to the reverse)
image: 33 3/4 x 34in. (85.8 x 86.5cm.)
sheet: 39 3/8 x 39 3/8in. (100 x 100cm.)
Executed in 1997, this work is number five from an edition of eight

Another work from the edition is in the collection of the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.
Jean Marc Patras, Paris.
Private Collection (acquired from the above in 2003).
Stevenson, Cape Town.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2012.
L. Warren (ed.), Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Photography, New York 2006, p. 550.
R. Hylton, The Nature of the Beast: Cultural Diversity and the Visual Arts Sector, Bath 2007 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
J. Parker & R. Rathbone, African History: A Very Short Introduction, London 2007 (illustrated, p. 144).
C. Spring, Angaza Afrika, London 2008 (illustrated in colour, p. 110).
B. Binder, D. Neuland-Kitzerow & K. Noack (eds.), Berliner Blätter: Ethnographische und ethnologische Beitrage, Münster 2008 (illustrated, p. 37).
O. Enwezor & C. Okeke-Agulu, Contemporary African Art Since 1980, Chicago 2009 (illustrated in colour, p. 196).
S. Njami, Samuel Fosso: Dorian Gray à Bangui, Paris 2010 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
V. S. Naipaul, Le Masque de l’Afrique, Paris 2011 (illustrated in colour on the front cover; detail illustrated in colour on the back cover).
C. Spring, African Textiles Today, London 2012 (illustrated in colour, p. 225).
V. Godeau, La Photographie Africaine Contemporaine, Paris 2015, p. 29.
O. Enwezor (ed.), Samuel Fosso: AUTOPORTRAIT, Göttingen 2020 (illustrated in colour, pp. 105 & 341).
Rome, Calcografia, Samuel Fosso, 2004 (another version exhibited, illustrated in colour, pp. 146-147). This exhibition later travelled to Verona, Centro Internazionale di Fotografia Scavi Scaligeri.
Dusseldorf, Museum Kunstpalast, Africa Remix: Contemporary Art of a Continent, 2004-2006 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated in colour on the front cover; illustrated in colour, p. 76). This exhibition later travelled to London, Hayward Gallery; Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou and Tokyo, Mori Art Museum.
Further details
This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity

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Lot Essay

Born in Nigeria in 1962, Samuel Fosso fled the Biafran War to Cameroon and eventually to the Central African Republic where he established a photographic studio at the age of thirteen. Initially, the young Fosso used leftover film from shoots with clients to shoot himself in extravagant poses wearing flamboyant 1970s fashions, which he would then send back to his family in Nigeria.
Fosso first gained international recognition in 1993, when his work was discovered by the French curator and critic Bernard Deschamps while organising an exhibition of African photography. Since that moment, Fosso’s self-portraiture has evolved to explore a large range of different roles. These include Black heroes and icons from the Independence and civil rights movements, and extend to Fosso experimenting with different notions of beauty and gender roles. ‘When I work,’ he states, ‘it’s always a performance that I choose to undertake. I link my body to this figure, because I want to translate its history'.
Fosso’s Patrice Lumumba, taken from his African Spirits series, sees Fosso inhabit the body and spirit of Lumumba, embracing his persona and reviving the energies of the visionary Congolese leader. It draws an interesting parallel to Igbo masquerade, in which the performer invokes the spirit of his ancestors.
The title The Chief: The One Who Sold Africa To The Colonists invites us to consider another dimension of the work, in which we question the position of the sitter in the orders of power. The work plays with the idea of agency and shifting power relations, and also with the role of photography in articulating these hierarchies. The now iconic image was used as the cover of Simon Njami's landmark exhibition Africa Remix, 2004.
Samuel Fosso was awarded the Prince Claus Award from the Netherlands in 2001. His work is held in numerous prestigious collections such as the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris; The Centre Pompidou, Paris; MoMA, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Tate, London; and the Moderna Museet, Stockholm. He is currently the subject of a major retrospective at the MEP in Paris with a forthcoming exhibition at the Menil Collection, Houston.

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