By Christian Franzen
Chéri Samba was born on December 30th 1956 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was one of ten children supported by their fathers work as a blacksmith in a small village outside of the capital Kinshasa. Being one out of ten children in a poor family, Samba took pleasure in drawing on what paper he could find.
When he was only 16 he left his small village for the big capital city of Kinshasa. There he found a job as a sign painter. Working in city he became acquainted with several other artists whom shared common interests. These artists came together to form a new school of African American artists and are now regarded as on of the most vibrant schools in the global contemporary painting scene.
Samba opened his own private studio in 1975. That same year he began work for an entertainment magazine Bilenge Info. For Bilenge he painted billboards in addition to creating comic strips for the magazine. This background in print and advertisement can be seen in his paintings. In most of Samba's paintings he utilizes the power text which, in addition to to his use of stylized figures set in spaces shaped by large color blocks to create a narrative feel.
He received fame around the city for his work, but his big break through came when he was given the opportunity to exhibit at the Pompidou in Paris in 1989. This exhibit made him internationally recognized and ushered him into a new level of success. In 2007, he was given the opportunity to show at the Venice Biennale, which he of course accepted. Samba is still alive and painting today. He lives in Kinshasa most of the year where he can be found pushing the boundaries of contemporary painting.