Fred Ebami is illustrating contemporary Africa with his present-day choose on Pop Artwork

Stella McDaniel

Written by Nadia Leigh-Hewitson, CNN

For the previous 10 years, Fred Ebami has been blazing a trail for a design and style he calls “New Pop” — digital Pop Art as a result of an African lens.

The Franco-Cameroonian artist, aged 45, produces hopeful photos ranging from the every day to the legendary — with individual emphasis on the African continent and world African diaspora. His portraits are a wealthy mix of iconography, symbolic patterns, slogans, and interpretations of vintage Pop Artwork imagery.

His artworks, produced principally on a computer, purpose to deliver Pop Artwork into the 21st century, and have been exhibited at the Tate Modern in London, the Champs Élysées in Paris, and Art Basel in Miami. Previous November, Ebami opened a retrospective in Lagos, Nigeria, and his get the job done is presently being demonstrated at an exhibition titled “NEW POP” in Brest, France.

Fred Ebami’s portraiture — usually impressed by Andy Warhol — celebrates African icons. This operate displays Nigerian musician and Afrobeat innovator Fela Kuti. Credit history: Fred Ebami

From drawing on walls

Ebami’s life as an artist started at the age of seven, drawing on the partitions of his childhood property in Villeneuve-la-Garenne, France. “I was not a incredibly talkative person when I was a child,” he explained. “Drawing was my way of chatting.”

Ebami preferred to specific himself as a result of visuals, to make the everyday extraordinary with the colour and drama he noticed in comics, movie posters and Pop Artwork. He initially found the function of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Jean-Michel Basquiat as a youngster and was moved by the exhilaration and speculate their explosions of shade drew from really regular topics.

“Andy Warhol was the initially Pop Artist I came across,” Ebami stated. “He was getting day to day lifetime, each day persons and producing them a lot more gorgeous, additional interesting.

“When I observed their perform, it was just exactly what was going on in my head. But I had to locate my have way of undertaking it,” he extra. “Individuals a few persons, they had been like a bounce-start off button for me.”

Ebami hopes to honor the original Pop Artists employing a laptop mouse and screen. Aside from a handful of experiments with sculpture and paint, Ebami operates digitally — he sees his laptop as an extension of himself. He claims functioning this way will allow him to create get the job done when inspiration strikes.

Fred Ebami opening his first solo exhibition at MAM Gallery in Douala, Cameroon, in 2020.

Fred Ebami opening his very first solo exhibition at MAM Gallery in Douala, Cameroon, in 2020.

Everyday superheroes and African heritage

In May, he is established to release a graphic novel that tells the tragic genuine story of two youngsters who died of hypothermia whilst stowed absent on a airplane from Guinea to Brussels in 1999. Discovered in their possession was a letter producing a plea to Europe to assistance the kids of Africa.

Whilst Warhol was well-known for his vibrant monitor prints of rockstars and supermodels, Ebami normally will take inspiration from the remarkable functions of in any other case normal people — he prefers to build hanging illustrations or photos of every day heroes.

“My artwork is a blend of day-to-day life and society, and comics — simply because I normally needed to stand for superheroes,” mentioned Ebami. “As I grew up, I understood that superheroes were not like Spiderman and Superman. They’re genuine-everyday living folks like nurses, firefighters, troopers.”

But his operate also celebrates African stars, like Cameroonian musicians André-Marie Tala and Manu Dibango, and in place of the very simple, pointillist backgrounds built up of dots of color, favored by several mid 20th century Pop Art masters, Ebami employs styles from textiles linked to his African heritage.

Expanding up in France as a boy or girl of Cameroonian descent, Ebami noticed that the conversation close to Africa in the West was normally unfavorable — just after dwelling in Douala, Cameroon, through his teenage decades and returning to Europe as an adult, he suggests that small has transformed.

“The narrative is that it is only poverty, only war, only terrible folks, only men and women receiving killed,” he described. “But we’ve received a new generation that require to demonstrate that we are wonderful, require to clearly show that we are tremendous. I want to exhibit you the new facet of Africa, and if I can do that with my art, I will do that until eventually I die.”

Pop Art in the electronic age

Due to the fact the commencing of his professional occupation, Ebami has been faced with criticism of his form. He says some in Africa battle to enjoy his digital operate as “genuine artwork,” nevertheless attitudes are commencing to alter.

Irrespective of continued resistance from the additional regular art circles in Africa, Ebami has proven perform across the area, and taught digital art master lessons in Cameroon, South Africa, the Ivory Coastline and Morocco.

“People in Africa are just realizing how impressive digital can be,” Ebami explained. “It can be tomorrow’s language and they have to get into that if they will not want to be left driving.”

“My aim is not to be the only just one,” he extra. “My aim is to encourage the new era and demonstrate them a further way of speaking. To exhibit another way of staying connected to the environment.”

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