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.