Cheri Samba is a founding member of the Zaire School of Popular Painting, a movement characterized by the creation of bold representational works, often incorporating narrative text, in order to comment on the political and socio-economic issues of their respective communities. At the heart of Cheri Samba’s practice lies his desire to combine humour and irony in order to create works that reveal the truths about daily life in his hometown of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). As the artist says: ‘My project is a critical one; I play with humour of course, but the real point is to give a critical portrayal of the way people live’ (Cheri Samba a retrospective, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, p. 8). Samba’s works mainly consist of representational scenes of burgeoning city life in Kinshasa. The artist is known for his use of highly grotesque figures, a technique which reinforces Samba’s satirical take on man and his existence as the ultimate comic figure.
Many of Cheri Samba’s work are unapologetically blunt and created with a level of absurdity and irony that is intended to cause discomfort, shock or even anger. As a favour to future generations, the artist attempts to taps into that which is often swept under the rug. Samba forces us to acknowledge what we know exists but too often, in the artist’s opinion, ignore.
Referencing a famous Parisian discothèque, Live dans les Sous-Sols du Rex depicts a lively and slightly promiscuous crowd enjoying a live band as several onlookers flank the side of the room. After being introduced to the French public in 1982, Cheri Samba would make regular trips to Paris where he would frequent the Rex nightclub. The present lot is then intimately linked to the artist and his time spent in Paris. This connection is reinforced by Samba’s decision to depict himself in the foreground of the work in mid dance. In contrast to the lively city of Paris, outside the window lies what appears to be a rural African village, perhaps a comment of the DRC’s French colonial past. Created in 1982, this early Samba is an engaging example of the artist’s interest in depicting, through his usual humorous and ironic eye, the lively and rowdy nightlife of Paris.
Cheri Samba’s works can be found in collections across the world. The artist has showcased his work at the Fondation Cartier’s Beauté Congo in 2015 as well as in Why Africa? The Pigozzi Collection in 2007-2008 at the Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, among others.
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