Artist Dossier: Chéri Samba

Artist Dossier: Chéri Samba

Chéri Samba was born in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo in Kinto M’Vuila on December 30, 1956 and is one of the African continent’s better known contemporary artists.

At 16, he left his village for the capital city of Kinshasa to seek work as a sign painter. Three years later, he established his own studio and became the illustrator at the magazine, Bilenge Info. Working both as a billboard painter and a comic strip artist, Samba fused the conventions of both genres when he began making paintings on sack clothing. Through these works, he gained local fame. In the same year, he borrowed word bubbles from comic art, this allowed him to engage broader audience by interjecting not only narrative but also commentary into his compositions.

Samba’s paintings of the 1980’s show his perception of the social, political, economic and cultural realities of Democratic Republic of Congo through the exposure of all facets of everyday life in Kinshasa. His works offer a running commentary on popular customs, sexuality, AIDS and other illnesses, social inequalities and corruption.

From the late 1980s, Chéri Samba became the main subject of his paintings. For him, it was not an act of narcissism but rather, he is like an anchor on TV news broadcasts. Here he places himself in his work to report on what it means to be a successful African artist on the world stage, as exemplified by the documentary film Kin Kiesse, produced in 1982, Samba was again the central figure.

In the early 1980s, Samba began signing his paintings “Chéri Samba: Artiste Populaire.” Indeed, their popularity soon went beyond Kinshasa’s city limits and by the mid-1980s, they had gained international attention.

On June 12, 2017, for the first time ever, a painting by the artist surpassed the $100,000 mark. Originally estimated at $11,226 – 13,471, Le seul et unique devoir sacré d’un enfant, 2007, acrylic/canvas, 81 x 100 cm, sold for $140,280 (buyer’s premium incl.) at CORNETTE DE SAINT CYR Maison de Ventes S.A.S’s Art Contemporain auction.

Other high selling works by Samba include; J’aime la couleur, 2004, acrylic, glitter ink, 128 x 193 cm, with pre-sale estimate $80,073 – $114,390, sold for $104,094 (buyer’s premium incl.) at Artcurial (S.V.V.)’s Paris#Marrakech: African Spirit auction on December 30, 2018; and J’aime la couleur, 2007, acrylic, glitter/canvas, 214.6 x 135.3 cm, with pre-sale estimates $60,000 – $80,000, sold for $98,500 (buyer’s premium incl.) at Phillips de Pury & Company’s AFRICA auction on May 15, 2010. Others are; Boende-leo, 2006, acrylic, collage, glitter ink/canvas, 120 x 150 cm, with pre-sale estimates $10,666 – $12,799, sold for $86,991 (buyer’s premium incl.) at CORNETTE DE SAINT CYR Maison de Ventes S.A.S’s Art contemporain auction on April 5, 2017; and Une vie non ratée (A Successful Life), 1995, acrylic/canvas, 130 x 195 cm, with pre-sale estimates $25,820 – $38,730, sold for $67,777 (buyer’s premium incl.) at Sotheby’s Modern and Contemporary African Art auction sale on May 6, 2017.

Other highlights of the artist’s extensive career is his participation in several major exhibitions such as; Moderne Kunst aus Afrika (Germany); The Global Contemporary Art Worlds After 1989 (Germany); Japancongo, (France); Why Africa? (Italy); Popular Painting from Kinshasa (UK); Universes in Universe at the 52nd Venice Biennale (Italy); and Africa Remix: Art contemporain d’un continent (Germany, UK, France and Tokyo).

Biography: Cheri Samba retrieved on March 4, 2019 from

Biography: Cheri Samba retrieved on March 4, 2019 from

Prices: Cheri Samba retrieved on March 4, 2019 from

Oyindamola Olaniyan holds a in Botany from Lagos State University. Broadly experienced in this area, her core expertise includes social media management, content development and brand identity.

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