Skip to contentSkip to navigation
Become a Member
Explore today's schedule
Visit MMFA for free by becoming a Member
Learn more
Back

Samuel Fosso

The Chief (He Who Sold Africa to the Colonizers)
From the series "Tati"

Artist

Samuel Fosso
Born in Kumba, Cameroon, in 1962

Title

The Chief (He Who Sold Africa to the Colonizers)
From the series "Tati"

Date

1997, print 2007

Materials

Chromogenic print, 3/3

Dimensions

121.4 x 122.6 cm (sight)

Credits

Purchase, the Museum Campaign 1988-1993 Fund, inv. 2007.264

Collection

Graphic Arts

In this photograph, possibly Fosso’s most famous self-portrait, he tackles the complexity of relationships between Africans and colonial powers. The image encapsulates a multitude of interpretations, from Western clichés to criticism of corrupt African leaders. The batik fabrics that create a decorative, almost Matissian background are often considered as symbolic of an African identity. However, they were probably imported in the mid-nineteenth century by the Dutch. Wearing flashy jewellery and dressed in a leopard skin and fur hat calling to mind those worn by Mobutu Sese Seko, the artist presents a thinly veiled caricature of the Congolese dictator. We can also appreciate his borrowings from the canons of the Western aesthetic, Van Gogh’s sunflowers for one.


Fosso is one of the most important African photographers of the last thirty years. Born in Cameroon, he spent his childhood in Nigeria before joining his brother in the Central African Republic. In 1975, he became an apprentice to a local photographer. Photography then enjoyed unprecedented popularity among young Africans, who in the period following the achievement of independence looked to the future with optimism. Fosso quickly embarked upon a personal practice built upon the selfportrait that progressively became more critical, using costume to express themes of identity.

Add a touch of culture to your inbox
Subscribe to the Museum newsletter

Bourgie Hall Newsletter sign up

This website uses cookies in order to optimize your browsing experience and for promotional purposes. To learn more, please see our policy on the protection of personal Iinformation