What is your journey?
I am a franco Cameroonian. I am 40 years old. I grew up in France and I currently live and work between Paris and London. I always loved drawing. My wish was to integrate the School of Fine Art at the end of my studies but due to a lack of financial support, I had to let this dream go.
Then I traveled. I went to the United States and to England. It is during my first job as a bartender in London that I met Paul Klee who had a crush for my sketches. He encouraged me to integrate a graphic design school in Oxford & Cherwill College. This is where I learnt the graphic design techniques.
I was graduated in 2004 ant I started to design for friends and especially for my best friend, the slameur and poet Captain Alexander. In 2015, I received the Paul Verlaine Award of Academy French. I went on creating the visuals for his collection of poems (African Diaspora and Negritude ) which was a huge success. He took me in his rise.
In 2010, Captain Alexander didn’t give me the choice and he organized without telling me an exhibition in France.
Today I exhibit in France as in England, but also in South Africa and Senegal.
What triggered this desire to do this job?
I am curious and I feel constantly the need to travel. Going to the United States was my dream. Like many young people of my age, the United States represented the “American Dream”. However, I quickly lost my illusions. And my conclusions about the US were disappointing because inequalities and discrimination were current.
I prefer living in England, particularly in Oxford and in London. They are magic cities, open minded and ecclesiastical. This is my move to London and also my encounter with the Dj Paul Klee that changed the course of my life.
Did your family always support you in your choice?
My family has always considered me as someone “special”. I was the first of my siblings to travel, the first to make a tattoo… My mother has always encouraged and supported me but with safety and protection. It was important for her that I get my bachelor’s degree and that I go to university. She is today very proud of my achievements.
What are the artists that influenced you, that you admire?
The photographer Olivier Tuscan is without a doubt the one who has influenced me the most. He is the one who gave me the desire to do this job. I was moved by his controversial photos for Benetton. I love the idea to show taboo subjects.
The painter Basquiat, with his touch of madness, his colorful artworks and his brouhaha which a priori does not mean anything but actually does, is also one of my favorite artists.
I like Warhol too. The main figure of the pop up art with his multiple colors and his photography. It is the ability to transform something normal in something sublime that I admire in his works.
Roy Liechtenstein for his humoristic side and Shepard Fairey for his slogans images but also the Franco Hungarian painter Mambo, the urban artist D Face, the American graffiti artist Jonone. These artists gave me the taste for this art.
As an artist, how would you define yourself?
I am a person who likes to communicate. Artistically, I am in the Pop art movement. A pop artist is inspired by the society and particularly by the society of consumption, but also by the society and politics issues.
For me, to be a pop art artist means to meet the desire to know and understand what the individuals feel. I am an artist that aspires to make you smile but also make you think about it. I am inspired by everything that surrounds me, from the news to my joys and sorrows: all of this echoes in my art. My art is playful, mental, physical but before all human. My areas of predilection are posters and prints. I love to create scenes with characters that would illustrate my idea. I draw on my computer before printing and frame the artwork to give relief effect or to recreate on the canvas.
People said that I am currently the only pop artist originally from Africa. I am a bit scared but at the same time it is encouraging for young people who are afraid to believe in their dream. When I was young I was living in the suburb. I dared to believe in my dream. I worked hard in this direction, and today, my work is recognized.
How are you working? What are the steps of your creation?
It is difficult for me to explain it in a rational way because the ideas come out of nowhere. When an idea comes in, it’s like an effect of power, I feel the need to scribble. I can do a lot of sketches and only keep just one of them.
Once I have decided the theme, the scenic goes up. I do sketches of characters. I do searches on the subject I chose. And then I am ready to create the poster.
I love all the phases of creation. Especially the beginning of the idea when I find it crazy and undoable: the doodle and the making makes the work becomes real.
At this stage, I can’t wait to see the final work and to discover the reaction of the public. Each step is captivating. I like to create in a spontaneous way but it can happen to me to work on commission.
What is the greatest work of your creations?
I have several works that I consider as major but two of them are special to me.
The Virgin Mary because it represents my youth and my maturity. This poster refers to the fashion world. I was afraid to show it to my mother who is believer. I had represented this religious symbol with a red lip and a big Louis Vuitton necklace but my mother loved it. Maturity means that I grew up in a religious family. I went to catechism, and I realised that everything I had been taught wasn’t that simple. The Good vs the Bad, Heaven vs Hell were not as simple and linear in the everyday real life. I went through a lot of questionings and handing-over in questions.
My second important “Yes We Kanye” in reference of “Yes We Can” from Obama about the fact of being and impossible successes. Then the word game with the name of the rapper Kanye West but also the following metaphor : How to transfigure the egocentric of two people, their africanness, their taste for clothing, but also their personality very “edgy”.
For the first time, I showed how I could deconstruct and restructure characters. This resulted in diverse and various interpretations depending on the individual’s own world perception. Feedbacks have been positive. And then four years later, seeing this slogan used during the Obama’s election campaign was just amazing.
Are you in any associations or groups?
I am a founding member of the collective “On a slamé sur la lune » with my childhood friend and brother Captain Alexander. I am a member of a melting pot association working in six countries. The mission is to help poor populations in underdeveloped countries.
I also support the collective “Osez l’Afrique”. The objective is to bring young African people together from the continent and also to form a strong diaspora together to build a prosperous Africa.