Boris Nzebo’s multilayered paintings and collages conjure the astounding visual complexity typical of the West African city. Entirely drawing his subject matter from urban culture in his hometown Douala, Nzebo invests his works with psycho geographical impulse: their primary subjects are the elaborate hairstyles of men and women, which he lays on city views as integral features of the architecture. Inspired by the hand-painted advertising illustrations found in West African beauty parlors, the heads incarnate the intimate relation between the individual and street life. This symbiotic connection allows for a multiplicity of readings of the image, rendering levels of information in a sort of visual polyphony that rhythmically integrates humans and the space they inhabit.
Possessing a flamboyant, dandy-like sense of fashion and style, the artist weaves the colourful silhouettes representing large human heads with the buildings’ façades or the intimacy of interiors, thus merging the diverse spheres where social and psychological life take place.
Douala, the largest city of Cameroon, embodies a kaleidoscopic visual fabric where a vast repertoire of contemporary trends alternates with historical buildings, traditional and modern dress codes, graffiti and advertising. The organic nature of such layering, its unpredictability and resilience are at the very root of Boris Nzebo’s images, which mirror the city’s inhabitants’ horror vacui as they attempt to fill every available space with extraordinary intensity.
Text © Gabriela Salgado