Art on Hulfish | Samuel Fosso: Affirmative Acts

Samuel Fosso, La femme américaine libérée des années 70 (The Liberated American Woman of the 1970s), from the series Tati, 1997. © The artist / Image courtesy the artist; Jean Marc Patras, Paris; and The Walther Collection, Neu-Ulm/New York

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 is the first museum survey of the artist’s work in the United States. The exhibition showcases Fosso’s self-portraits, in which the artist assumes various characters and gender roles to highlight the connections between identity, consumption, and global commerce. Through make up and dress, Fosso references 1970s High-life music and popular culture; he transforms into major figures from Africa and the diaspora; he reflects on Africa’s complicated encounters with European colonialism, Christianity, and a resurgent China; and he engages in vigorous self-analysis.  

In Fosso’s hands, self-portraiture becomes at once a form of masking, revelation, and self-affirmation, a theatrical event and embodiment of the individual and the body politic, and a performance of social commentary.  

Download the exhibition brochure (PDF)

Samuel Fosso: Affirmative Acts is curated by Princeton University Professor Chika Okeke-Agulu with Princeton students Silma Berrada, Class of 2022; Lawrence Chamunorwa, doctoral student; Maia Julis, Class of 2023; and Iheanyi Onwuegbucha, doctoral student. 

Organized by the Princeton University Art Museum in collaboration with The Walther Collection.

Art on Hulfish is made possible by the leadership support of Annette Merle-Smith and by Princeton University. Generous support is also provided by William S. Fisher, Class of 1979, and Sakurako Fisher; J. Bryan King, Class of 1993; the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts; John Diekman, Class of 1965, and Susan Diekman; Christopher E. Olofson, Class of 1992; Barbara and Gerald Essig; Rachelle Belfer Malkin, Class of 1986, and Anthony E. Malkin; the Curtis W. McGraw Foundation; Jim and Valerie McKinney; Tom Tuttle, Class of 1988, and Mila Tuttle; Nancy A. Nasher, Class of 1976, and David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976; Gene Locks, Class of 1959, and Sueyun Locks; H. Vincent Poor, Graduate School Class of 1977; the Walther Family Foundation; and Palmer Square Management. Additional supporters include the Humanities Council, the Lewis Center for the Arts, the Africa World Initiative, the Program in African Studies, the Department of African American Studies, and the Center for Collaborative History.

Virtual exhibition tours are made possible through a partnership with MASK Consortium and a Humanities Council Magic Grant.