Looking at Boris Nzebo’s colorful canvas means getting a portrait of social and political life in Douala, the biggest city of Cameroon. His art is urban and tells the tales of a city. Nzebo’s art takes inspiration from the sounds, the lifestyle and the social conditions of Doula. The artist’s quest always starts from a peculiar element. Nzebo explores hairstyle in human life as a medium to show social rank and cultural belonging.
The artist, class 1979 and born in Port-Gentil, Gabon, lives and works in Doula. He began his journey in art by painting shop signs with his brother. Boris studied graphic arts, encouraged by his father to become an artist.
Above all, inspiration came soon. His artistic education derives from direct contact with the most influent local artists. As a self-taught artist, he worked with artists such as Koko Komégné, Hervé Yamguen, and Goddy Leye.
Boris Nzebo’ career
The artist explored different mediums, mingling video, photo, and performance. In addition, artistic projects brought him to have exchanges with other remarkable voices of contemporary art. Among others, he assisted Faouzi Laatiris, Marocain artist whose creations range from sculpture, installation and public space. Furthermore, he worked with Alto Malinda, an eclectic creator whose striking performances are related to the theme of African identity and often focus on LGBT community issues.
In June 2009 the artist exposed his works at Jeunes Regards Urbains at doual’art with Cameroonian artists Man Faust and Landry Mbassi. His participation in this compelling show is yet another testimony of the artist’s commitment to representing West Africa’s urban identity.
Boris Nzebo participated in many group and solo exhibitions. Selected group exhibitions include Maison Revue Noire in Paris (2010), Savvy Contemporary in Berlin, New Art from Africa and Latin America (2014) and Pangaea II: New Art from Africa and Latin America (2015).
The success of the artist’s multilayered paintings converged in two main important shows. First, In & Out of my head, in Douala at the SUD2010. The other, at the Institut Français in Yaoundé for the program Vil-Vissages. In addition, solo exhibitions include Urban Style at Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester (2016).
During ART DUBAI, fair of contemporary art (2013) his canvas captured international interest. Above all, The Jack Bell Gallery of London recognized in his works an artistic flair full of communicative intent. For this reason, his art started to be displayed in several collective exhibitions in London and New York.
Artist we love: Boris Nzebo’s Afropop
Everything started with advertising painting. Even if this left a mark on his identity, the artist soon moved towards more exciting paths. His is an art in motion, continually renewed, every day richer in visual complexity.
The Pop imprint in his works evokes the murals and the graffiti of the suburbs. All his subjects come from urban reality in his hometown. The elaborate hairstyles of the people he portrays incarnate the criterions of African beauty. Still, his purpose goes way beyond that.
Hairdressing for him is like architecture, a way to build and rebuild things. By insisting on the importance of hairstyle in his society, he underlines how we focus on the surface. While we think about our next outfit, we don’t care about bigger political and social issues.
Because of the situation he lives in, the Cameroonian artist often makes direct references to war and poverty in his artworks. Art serves as a conscience awakener.
The symbiotic connection with the street allows the viewer to catch diverse readings in his canvas. The paintings are multilayered. The effect is almost psychedelic and the message must be broken down to be read in its entirety. Man and the road are complementary and become each other’s mirror.
Art we love
Boris Nzebo’s style is extraordinarily intense. The lines intertwine, overlap and suddenly distance themselves, revealing more representations in the same work. The pictorial and narrative complexity of his artistic imagination constantly evolves.
In the same way, the use of strong colors aligns perfectly with the language of advertising. However, for the artist, this is the umpteenth way to give strength to his denunciation against violence and political instability. In spite of this, his scenes from daily life often show a world full of color, dynamism, passion. That’s where the main ability of the artist stands: while criticizing social issues and inequalities, he makes the viewer fall in love with the city and its inhabitants.
It takes a vision to make art. That’s why Boris Nzebo is an artist we love!
Visit artist’s gallery on RDN Arts: Boris Nzebo