How Boris Nzebo got his start in pop arts

It is natural that Cameroonian artist, Boris Nzebo, would be fascinated with the subject of hairstyles. Nzebo started out in the early 2000s, painting signs for barber shops and beauty parlours and after he quit the business to develop his art, the themes of women and their hairstyles carried over to his work.

“Woman is the fixed point of Nzebo’s world,” Intense Art Magazine wrote. “He loves women. And especially their hair.”

Nzebo’s art explores hairstyles in relation to society, particularly of his base, Douala, Cameroon’s largest city. Drawing inspiration from beauty parlours in urban centres, Nzebo’s paintings capture everyday life through the physical features of women, with the city as the backdrop. In his work, he raises the existential questions: why do African women change their hairstyles so often? Why are they so bothered about setting the hair right and not as much about the environment and governance?

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Work by Boris Nzebo. Photo: Annabel Sheppey/Flickr
Work by Boris Nzebo. Photo: Annabel Sheppey/Flickr

The artist’s intricate paintings sometimes draw a contrast between coiffured hair and chaotic environment to prove his point.

“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,” the Saatchi Gallery, London, where his work has been exhibited, noted. “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.”

Biography of the artist, Boris Nzebo

Nzebo was born in 1979 in Port-Gentil, Gabon. Encounters with Cameroonian artists, Koko Komegne and Goody Leye helped in evolving his style and to embrace photography, installation and performance art. Some of his influences are Takashi Murakami, Roy Lichtenstein and Jack Mitchell.

Nzebo has participated in group and solo exhibitions within and outside his native Cameroon. Some of these are at the Jack Bell Gallery, London in 2011, at Saatchi Gallery also in London in 2014 and 2015.

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