Born in Douala, Cameroon in 1962 and educated in France, photographer Angèle Etoundi Essamba is a graduate of the Dutch Photography School in Amsterdam where she currently resides. Essamba is an artist committed to a reflection on the identity of the black woman. She joins the spirit of humanist photography with a strong attachment to the values of communion, observing the world through the women she photographs.
Essamba’s work lies at the intersection of the social/gender and the artistic field. She aesthetically records a vision of the black woman and African culture, giving a new interpretation of contemporary Africa. In her work, she breaks from stereotypical representations of an Africa torn by famines, epidemics, and wars, instead choosing to celebrate the cultural richness and diversity of the continent. Her photography practice challenges conventional representations of women, by giving her subjects meaning and grandeur, while simultaneously exploring the relationship between tradition and modernity. Essamba’s work is encompassed by the words pride, strength, and awareness which she conveys through the regal poses and fearless gazes of the subjects she captures. She focuses exclusively on what individuals radiate outward, whether alone, as a couple, or in a group. In this universe that is hers alone, she controls color with the same artistry as black and white, she masters contrast with a sure touch and handles shadow and light with dexterity and audacity.
Since her first exhibition in 1985, her work has been frequently exhibited in museums, institutions, biennales, art fairs, and galleries in Europe, Africa, the United States, Latin America, and Asia including Renaissance, National Fotomuseum, Rotterdam, Netherlands, 2022, Affiliations, Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy, 2022, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, London, UK, 2021, AKAA, Paris, France, 2021, Renaissance, Museum of Black Civilizations (MCN), Dakar, Senegal, 2020, ArtX Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria, 2019, Women of the Water, Claudine Talon Cotonou Foundation, Cotonou, Benin (Solo Exhibition), 2018, Strength & Pride Musée de l’Ifang, Dakar, Senegal (30-year retrospective), 2016, Voiles et Devoilements, National Museum Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya (Solo Exhibition), 2011, Dialogues, UNESCO, Paris, France, 2006.
Her photographs are held in several private and public collections, including the MoMa, World Bank Art Programme, the Memphis Brooks Museum, the Hood Museum Dartmouth College, the Tampa Museum, the Boca Raton Museum of Art, and the Herbert Johnson Museum of Art Cornell University.