Cheri Samba is one of the first modern African painters to receiveinternational recognition for his work. His paintings explore how relations between Africans and Europeans have influenced the way Africans view themselves. Samba has described himself as an explorer of modern Africa and the West. According to some art critics, the main subject of his paintings is the corruption and sin in present-day African and Western society.
Originally named David Samba wa Mbimba-N'zinga-Nuni Masi, Samba was born in the Belgian Congo (present-day CONGO, KINSHASA). At age 16 he moved to KINSHASA, the capital, where he became an apprentice to a painter. In 1975 he opened his own studio and soon gained the admiration of local art circles. His most popular early paintings were mbanda scenes—pictures that show rival wives of the same man quarreling— and images of MAMI WATA. Mami Wata is a mermaid-like figure who represents the temptations of modern life. Often accompanied by a snake, she usually appears holding a mirror and comb.
In 1978 Samba's work was featured at the International Congress of African Studies. The following year he took the professional name Cheri Samba. By the late 1990s his paintings had appeared in more than 30 exhibitions in Europe, North America, and Japan, earning him world reknown. (See also Art, Popular Culture.)