Painter Chéri Samba was born in 1956 in the Democratic Republic of Congo to a blacksmith father and a farmer mother, one of ten children. At the age of sixteen he left his village to find work as a sign painter in the capital Kinshasa, where he began to develop a body of works that combined representational painting and text. Samba's paintings of this period reveal his perception of the social, political, economic and cultural realities of Zaïre, exposing all facets of everyday life in Kinshasa. This canvases offer a running commentary on popular customs, sexuality, AIDS and other illnesses, social inequalities, and corruption. From 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.
In the early 1980s the artist began signing his paintings "Chéri Samba: Artiste Populaire". Indeed, the popularity of his paintings soon went beyond Kinshasa's city limits; by the mid 1980s his work was gaining an international audience. His breakthrough was the exhibition Les Magiciens de la Terre (curated by Jean Hubert Martin) at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris in 1989, which made him known internationally. Followed the Pompidou Center (Africa Remix), Fondation Cartier, Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, The Venice Biennale, Museum Kunst Palast in Dusseldorf, National Museum of African Art in Washington DC, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Provincial Museum Voor Moderne Kunst in Ostende. Samba lives and works in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.