Samba was born 1956 in Kinto MVuila, Democratic Republic
of Congo and currently lives and works in Kinshasa.
1972 Chéri Samba left school in order to apprentice himself
to the sign painters on Kasa Vubu Avenue in Kinshasa; from this
circle of artists (which included Moke, Bodo, and later Sambas
younger brother Cheik Ledy among others) arose one of the most
vibrant schools of popular painting in the twentieth century.
both as a billboard painter and a comic strip artist, Samba
employed the conventions of both genres when he began making
paintings on sacking cloth (canvas being too expensive).
In 1975 Chéri Samba borrowed from comic art the device
of 'word bubbles' which allowed him to interject not only narrative
but also commentary into his compositions. Samba has recalled
how he came to use text in this paintings: I had noticed
that people in the street would walk by paintings, glance at
them and keep going. I thought that if I added a bit of text,
people would have to stop and take time to read it, to get more
into the painting and admire it. Thats what I called the
Samba signature. From then on I put text in all
the early 1980s Samba began signing his paintings Chéri
Samba: Artiste Populaire. Indeed, the popularity of his
paintings soon went beyond Kinshasas city limits; by the
mid 1980s his work was gaining an international audience.
Samba s paintings of this period reveal his perception
of the social, political, economic and cultural realities of
Zaïre (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), exposing
all facets of everyday life in Kinshasa. His canvases offer
a running commentary on popular customs, sexuality, AIDS and
other illnesses, social inequalities, and corruption. Samba
has explained, My painting is concerned with peoples
lives. Im not interested in myths or beliefs. Thats
not my goal. I want to change our mentality that keeps us isolated
from the world. I appeal to peoples consciences. Artists
must make people think.
the late 1980s on, he himself became the main subject of his
paintings. For Samba, this is not an act of narcissism; rather,
like an anchor on TV news broadcasts, he places himself in his
work to report on what it means to be a successful African artist
on the world stage.