Samuel Fosso

(Kumba, Cameroon, 1962 - )

Le Chef (The Chief) from the Tati series

1997 (printed 2009)

Chromogenic print

18 3/8 x 18 3/8 in. (46.7 x 46.7 cm)

Collection of the Akron Art Museum

Knight Purchase Fund for Photographic Media


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While working as a portrait photographer in the 1970s, Fosso began making self-portraits after hours in his studio. Inspired by popular culture images in magazines and newspapers, he emulated Western disco youth culture. After being discovered by the art world in the 1990s, Fosso was commissioned by a French department store to produce a series of advertising images. In this comical yet politically scathing image, Fosso portrays an African chief who displays traditional regalia but also signs of a culture permanently altered by French colonization. He recreates the iconic pose of a chief seated upon a stool, wearing gold, feet resting on a cushion, holding a staff of authority. But he replaces the chief’s regalia with commercial European products—fake gold chains, sunglasses and plastic sunflowers—possibly critiquing the African chief who exploits his own people to gain wealth and favor from European leaders.

Self portraits