Samuel Fosso: African Spirits features the artist’s fourteen, large-scale gelatin silver photographs from African Spirits. In this series of self-portraits, completed in 2008, Fosso pictures himself as Angela Davis, Martin Luther King Jr., Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, Léopold Sédar Senghor, Malcolm X, and other prominent figures from 20th-century Black liberation movements. His photographs reference iconic images, such as Carl Fischer’s photograph of Muhammad Ali that was published on the cover of Esquire in 1968 and the police mugshot taken of King after his arrest during the 1956 bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama. Fosso’s reinterpretations of these historic photographs pay homage to the figures in the original images and raise questions about individuality, celebrity, the media, and the complicated history of representation.
The Menil’s exhibition of African Spirits is in conjunction with the 2022 FotoFest Biennial and African Cosmologies Redux, a new presentation of photography originally curated by Dr. Mark Sealy OBE, Director of Autograph, London, and Professor at the University of the Arts London.