HERVÉ YOUMBI | Bio & CV

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BIOGRAPHY

Born in the Central African Republic in 1973 and raised in neighboring Cameroon, Hervé Youmbi discovered art as a child, began taking formal art classes as a teenager, then studied from 1993-1996 at Cameroon’s only dedicated art school at the time, IFA (Institut de Formation Artistique). He studied art theory, and developed an interest in installation art, which he later pursued, through both practice and research, in France at ESAD (Ecole Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs de Strasbourg). While there, he produced his first video work (2000-2001).

Hervé Youmbi’s work presents African-centered reflections on the power of both internal and external frameworks, questioning the operations of political, economic, and cultural forces.

Youmbi often integrates traditional Cameroonian sculpture techniques within his installations and into performance and video. This allows him to juxtapose indigenous African art traditions with contemporary global art conventions, and to destabilize what is regarded as “traditional” versus “contemporary.” Youmbi’s series “Visages des Masques/Faces of Masks” transgresses these established categories in several ways. His departure point is to insert mask forms that diverge from the Western stereotypes of “African Art” for this region of Cameroon into “traditional” Bamileke ritual performances, thus embodying them with efficacy and authenticity.

Youmbi’s “Les Trônes Célestes” is an installation of beaded caryatid thrones “traditional” for rulers of the Cameroon Grasslands, each seat of power supported by an animal traditionally symbolic of idealized leadership—except for the tortoise that Youmbi has slyly inserted here to suggest that the deliberate creature might epitomize better leadership than, say, the leopard, a stealthy killer. Inscribed in the beading underneath each stool is a Cameroonian proverb about leadership, which would be invisible except for the fact that Youmbi suspends the stools above glass mirrors so that the truth they bespeak can be read by all. The fragility of ideals of stewardship hang in the balance of the framework that Youmbi has constructed. 

Notions of circulation run through Youmbi’s work. By traveling sculptural works that have been ritually enacted in “the field” in Cameroon into art galleries and museums, and making allowance for them to return to the “field” afterward if their new owners desire, he challenges the status of art works in museums. His series “Totems to Haunt Our Dreams” confronted how difficult it was for artists to travel and network within Africa, despite shared aspirations and similar subordination to commodification, which reflects a globalization of capital that nevertheless serves to constrain African artists within parochial silos. In this project, larger-than-life photographic portraits of African artists overwhelm the icons of our commodity culture represented on shopping bags. Youmbi has also used painted portraits to depict the corrupting ties between particular African and Western leaders, and used printed portraits in his Afrofuturist currency series.  

Hervé Youmbi is a founding member of Cercle Kapsiki, a collective of five Cameroonian visual artists established in 1998. The K Factory, the collective’s home, based in New Bell, one of the poorest but also one of the most dynamic districts of Douala, is a flexible space, experimental and open to a wide range of collaborations. There, the collective shares its passion for the arts with city dwellers who otherwise have little access to such things. The K Factory is also a laboratory for artists from different disciplines. It welcomes young creators interested in developing experimental forms of expression, as part of a residency program in which they work with established practitioners. Via this initiative, K Factory seeks to effect radical change in a country whose government shows no interest in arts education.

CV

EDUCATION AND TRAINING
2000 – 2001
Ecole Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs (ESAD) Strasbourg / France

1993 – 1996
Institut de Formation Artistique (IFA), Mbalmayo / Cameroun 

AWARDS/FELLOWSHIPS/RESIDENCIES
2015
Emancipation Stories / Mémoires libérées, artist-in-residence program, Gorée island and Saint  Louis, Senegal.

2012 
Recipient of the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship,” Washington D.C. / USA

2009
Winner of “Visas pour la création” a program of Culturesfrance program of Afrique et Caraïbe en création

COLLECTIONS
Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, ME, USA
Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio, USA
Newark Museum, New Jersey, USA
Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada
Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington D.C., USA
LWL Museum für Kunst und Kultur, Münster, Germany
Yasmine and Peter König collection, Germany

FUTURE PROJECTS

  • “Vibrant Virtuosities: Masquerade Artists in Contemporary West Africa”. Smithsonian, National Museum of African Art, Curators: Amanda M. Maples, Jordan Fenton and Lisa Homann, Kevin D. Dumouchelle. 2022
  • “Hey Hamburg, do you know Duala Manga Bell? The exhibition for young people”. February 2021 – December 2022
  • “Africa 2020” workshop and exhibition curated by Sylvain Nzefa, Nantes, and Paris, France.   

SOLO SHOWS (SELECTION)
2019
“The Burden of Memory: Considering German Colonial History in Africa”. Curators: Rose Jepkorir, Princess Marilyn Douala Manga-bell and Nontobeko Ntombela. Yaoundé, Cameroon, November 10 – 16, 2019.
Hervé Youmbi, Masks on the Move, La Chaufferie, galerie de la HEAR, Strasbourg, France, March 1-17, 2019

2016
Visages de Masques, Doual’art, Douala / Cameroon
Visages des Masques: Dak’art Off, Dakar. Senegal

2015 
Emancipation Stories / Mémoires libérées artist-in-residence program, Gorée island and Saint  Louis, Senegal, 6 to 26 November, 2015
Lumières D’Afriques, Théâtre National de Challot, Paris, France, 4-24 November, 2015
Stories tellers: “Visages de masques” Bandjoun Station (museum and contemporary art center) Bandjoun / Cameroon

2014 
“08-08-1914 / 2014” exhibition “ça-me-dit martyrs” au Carré des artistes, Douala/ Cameroon
In the name of the father, the son and the holy constitutional monarchy“, Doual’art, Douala / Cameroon

2011     
Totems to Haunt our Dreams. Bas les masques: Art contemporain africain, Guyancourt, Totems to Haunt Our Dreams. Axis Gallery, New York City and New Jersey, in association with SPARCK and Submergedart

2010   
Ces totems qui hantent les rêves des fils de Mamadou
SPARCK @ Institut Français Léopold Sédar Senghor  – Dakar / Senegal
SPARCK @ Point Blank Gallery / Drill Hall – Johannesburg / South Africa
CulturesFrance & SPARCK @ Médiathèque des Diasporas – Cotonou / Benin 

2009 
Rue Um Nyobé. Culturesfrance & Scu2 @ Traces Belleville – Paris / France
Les ombres enchantées. Liquid Project – Douala / Cameroun

2008   
Face 2 Face. Doual’art –Douala/ Cameroun

2007 
The Window of My Soul. Centre Culturel Français de Yaoundé – Yaounde / Cameroon
Ascèse. Agence Ascèse @ Doual’art – Douala / Cameroon
My Family Album 1. British Counsel – Douala and Yaounde / Cameroon

2005   
N° 1234. Doual’art – Douala / Cameroon

2000     
2006080700. Doual’art – Douala / Cameroon

1999   
Visages de chaises. Alliance Française de Dschang – Dschang / Cameroon

1998
Présence. IFA – Mbalmayo / Cameroon

1997 
My Own Dream. Antoine François ASSOUMOU Foundation – Yaounde / Cameroon

GROUP SHOWS (SELECTION)
2020
The Presence of the Past: Art from Central and West Africa, Bowdoin Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine, USA, March 26 – September 20, 2020
Lumières d’Afriques. Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa. February 21 – April 9, 2020

2019             
“Aujourd’hui,” National Museum, Yaounde, Cameroon. Curated by Simon Njami, assisted by Mohamed Cisse, June 20, 2019 – February 20, 2019   

2018   
Into Nature: Out of DarknessBiennial. Drenthe, The NetherlandsJuly 1- September 16, 2018
“Feedback: Art, Africa and the Eighties”. Iwalewahaus, University of Bayreuth, Germany. April 28, 2018 – May 5, 2019
Our Anthropocene: Eco Crises. Center for Book Arts, New York. January 19, 2018 – March 31, 2017

2017
UNMASKEDAxis Gallery, New York, October 26 – November 18, 2017
“Nevralgies”, curated by Simon Njami, la galerie du Manège, French Institute, Dakar Senegal
“Les masques célestes” Skulptur Projekte Münster 2017, LWL – Museum für Kunst und Kultur, Münster, Germany. June 10- Oct 17, 2017  

2016
La forêt illuminée, representing Cameroon at Lumières d’Afrique: 15th festival des cinémas d’Afrique de Besançon, France
Emancipation Stories / Mémoires libérées traveling exhibition. Cameroon, Haiti, Antigua & Barbuda, Senegal, France

2015     
La forêt illuminée, representing Cameroon at Lumières d’Afrique: 15th festival des cinémas d’Afrique de Besançon, African Artists for Development Fondation, Paris. 7-15 November 2015
1:54, London, Axis Gallery
Didier Schaub  as seen by artists. Tribute to Didier Schaub, Espace Doual’art, Douala / Cameroon

2014 
RAVY : Rencontre des arts visuels de Yaounde. Yaounde/ Cameroon

2013   
Cameroonian heroes, SUD Salon Urbain de Douala, Doual’art Douala/ Cameroon
MCV2 Art Bakery international exhibition, Doual’art, Douala / Cameroon

2012
Dak’art: Biennale de l’art Africain contemporain, Dakar / Senegal

2011 
Bas les masques. Les Am’arts en Seine,  Guyancourt, France
Imag(IN)ing cities. Sparck @ Amin Gulgee Gallery, Karachi, Parkistan

2010   
La pirogue céleste, SUD 2010. Doual’art, Douala/ Cameroon

2009
Focus 9 Africa. Scu2 @ Volsta Hall – Basel / Switzerland
Une vision contemporaine, acte 2. World Bank – Yaounde / Cameroon

2008 
World One Minute Video and Literature. Beijing / China
Ornementation et abstraction dans la peinture bamoun. National Museum of Cameroon – Yaounde / Cameroon
Africa Now. World Bank – Washington, DC / USA

2007 
Un certain regard. Cannes Festival – Cannes / France

2006   
Dans JEUX il y a JE et EUX. Cercle Kapsiki @ MTN Foundation, Galerie Mam – Douala / Cameroon
Cent livres-objet pour Senghor. Atelier résidence –Toubab Dialaw and Ngaparou / Senegal
Cameroun:  une vision contemporaine. World Bank, Yaounde – Yaounde / Cameroon
Salon International de Zurich. Galerie Koussam – Zurich / Switzerland
Mygale Bleue. Galerie Koussam – Cannes / France

2005 
Ars & URBIS. Doual’Art – Douala / Cameroon

2004 
The Last Pictures Show. Cercle Municipal – Douala / Cameroon

2004 
El Boustashy
EL MAX – Alexandria / Egypt

2003 
Scénographies Urbaines, Galerie Mam, Douala / Cameroon
La rue congolaise. Atelier résidence – Brazzaville / Congo
Preveti. MSF and WHO – Geneva / Switzerland
Cameroonian touch. Doual’art – Douala / Cameroon

2002 
Le 213ème Salon. Espace Auteuil – Paris / France
Group show. National Museum of Cameroon – Yaounde / Cameroon
OFF. 5th edition of the Dakar Biennale – Dakar / Senegal
Right 2 Fight. Sarah Lawrence College – Bronxville, New York  / USA
Intérieur extérieur. Cercle Kapsiki @ Goethe Institute, Yaounde / Cameroon
De Douala à Berlin. 2 Y K Galerie Kunst Fabrik – Berlin / Germany

2001 
La Bourse aux odeurs. Cercle Kapsiki @ Galerie Syndicat Potentiel – Strasbourg /France
Cabines de Relookage. Cercle Kapsiki @ Selestat Biennale – Selestat / France
Cercle Kapsiki group show. Galerie Ames d’Afrique – Strasbourg / France

2000
Travel Time. Cercle Kapsiki @ Galerie MAM – Douala / Cameroon

1998   
Hors les murs. Boulevard de la Liberté – Douala / Cameroon

1996   
Cameroon Art. Galeria Artémondo – Saronno / Italy
Iconoclas Master. Goethe Institut – Yaounde / Cameroon

1994 
Festival National des Arts et de la culture – Douala / Cameroon

SCENOGRAPHY
2004   
El Boutashy (Scénographies urbaines). Gudran, Scur &°K and Cercle Kapsiki – Alexandria, Egypt

2002 – 2003
Scénographies Urbaines. Cercle Kapsiki an Org. Kapsiki Circle and Scur &°K – Douala / Cameroon

2001
Noirs Tout Couleurs Festival de cinéma et art visuel – Pointe-À-Pitre / Guadeloupe
Gilgamesh. Staged by Barbara Bouley, Théatre Gérald Philippe – St Denis, Paris / France

2000 
Ekhaya. Staged by Barbara Bouley / Eyala Pena – Bonandale, Douala and Yaounde / Cameroon ; Mantes-la-Jolie (@ Collectif 12), Aubervilliers (@ Laboratories) and Loos en Gohelle (@ Culture Commune) / France

2000 – 1999
Eyala Pena – Bonendale and Douala / Cameroon 

PUBLICATIONS AND TALKS

TALKS
2019
Artist talk at Iwalewahaus centre at the University of Bayreuth, Germany,  about his wide-ranging practice with particular focus on his work Françafrica, on view in the exhibition “Feedback,” curated by Smooth Ugochukwu C. Nzewi.
Artist talk with Julien Bondaz. Hervé Youmbi and beyond. HEAR, Strasbourg, France, 

2011
With Dominique Malaquais on “Totems to Haunt our Dreams” at the Smithsonian National Museum for African Art, Washington D.C. May 3, 2011.

MONOGRAPHS
2011
Dominique Malaquais, Hervé Youmbi, Paris:  Editions de l’œil

ARTICLES, BOOKS AND CATALOGUES
2019
“The burden of memory: considering german colonial history in Africa. exhibition catalogue,” l’Espace Cipca, Yaoundé/ Cameroon

“Aujourd’hui” catalog of exhibition curated by Simon Njami for la banque mondial de Yaoundé and the ministry of culture, Musée national, Yaoundé/ Cameroun
Dominique Malaquais, Silvia Forni, Julien Bondaz. Hervé Youmbi and beyond. HEAR, Strasbourg, France, 2019

2018
Our Anthropocene: Eco Crises. Catalogue for exhibition curated by Gary van Wyk for the Center for Book Arts, New York.

2017
Skulptur Projekte Münster, 2017

2016   
Dominique Malaquais, “Playing (in) the Marketfield: Hervé Youmbi and the Art World Maze.” Cahiers d’études africaines. 2016/3 (N° 223) p 364
Silvia Forni, “Masks on the Move: Defying Genres, Styles, and Traditions in the Cameroonian Grassfields.” African Arts Summer 2016, Vol. 49, No. 2: 38–53

2015  
“Stories tellers” Catalog of exhibition at Bandjoun station, Bandjoun/ Cameroun.

2014  
“Arts et cultures d’Afrique. Vers une anthropologie solidaire” Under the direction of Myrian-Odile Blin. Edition Press Universitaire de Rouen et du Havre (PURH), Rouen/ France
“CAMEROUN Une vision contemporaine 4”. World bank ; Yaoundé/ Cameroun

2013 
Dominique Malaquais, “Into the Vortex.” ART SOUTH AFRICA, pp. 54-59. RSA

2012
“Dak’art 2012”. Catalogue de la 10ème édition Dakar/ Sénégal

2011 
Dominique Malaquais, “Racial France, Take II :  Hervé Youmbi.” Public Culture 23
Dominique Malaquais, “Masques rebelles: Hervé Yamguen, Hervé Youmbi.” M.O. Blin, ed., Vers une anthropologie solidaire, Paris, France:  L’Harmattan 

2010 
Regard Bénin, Cotonou, Benin:  Ministry of Culture

2009 
Une vision contemporaine, acte 2, Yaounde, Cameroon:  World Bank

2008   
World One Minute Video and Literature, Rotterdam, Holland:  Lucette ter Borg
Lionel Manga, L’ivresse du papillon » Lionel Manga, Chamonix, France :  Editions Edimontagne

2007 
Art Aborigène, Art contemporain d’Afrique, catalogue of an auction held at the Dosne-Thiers Foundation, Paris, France:   Gaїa
Un certain regard, Cannes, France:  Galerie Koussam

2006 
Mygale bleue. Cannes, France:  Galerie Koussam
8ème Salon international de Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
Cameroun, une vision contemporaine, Yaounde, Cameroon:  World Bank
Dans jeux il y a je et eux, Douala, Cameroon:  Fondation MTN
Nicolas Bissek, Couleurs et toiles, Paris, France:  Karthala

2005 
Art convention, Douala, Cameroon:  Bonaprison Centre for the Arts
Eté 72, Le Mans, France:  Centre Culturel de la Sarthe

2004
The Last Pictures Show, Douala, Cameroon:  Gondwana

2001 
Ngone Fall et al.Anthologie de l’art africain du 20ème siècle, Paris, France:   Editions Revue Noire

1999 
Nicolas Bissek, Les peintres de l’estuaire, Paris, France:  Karthala

RESIDENCIES (SELECTION)
2017/18
“Into Nature : Out of darkness” Creative residency Groningen/ Netherlands

2016
Muenster Skulptur Projet. Résidence to crête a public art installation in Muenster/ Allemagne

2015 
Emancipation Stories / Mémoires libérées artist-in-residence program, Gorée island and Saint. Louis, Senegal 6 to 26 November, in preparation for the traveling exhibition scheduled for May 2016
Bandjoun Station, Residency for the creation of the installation Visages de masques. Bandjoun / Cameroon

2014
Bandjoun Station » residency to create the installation Visages de Masques. Bandjoun/ Cameroon
Bakassi peninsul’art, International workshop of artists from Nigeria and Cameroon in the fishing villages  of Limbé, Tiko and Edinao / Cameroon

2013
Master Class video 2, Art Bakery, Bonendale, Douala / Cameroon

2012 
Smithsonian Artist Research FellowshipSmithsonian National Museum of African Art, Hirshhom Museum and National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC / USA

2011 
Bag Factory, Johannesburg / South Africa

2010             
IAAB – Basel / Switzerland
SPARCK – Douala / Cameroon, Dakar / Senegal, Johannesburg / South Africa

2009 
Cité Internationale des Arts – Paris / France

2008 
ArtBakery – Bonendale / Cameroon

2006   
Village de sable – Touba Dialaw / Senegal

2004   
El Max – Alexandria / Egypte

2002 – 2003
New-Bell – Douala / Cameroon

1999
Alliance Française de Dschang – Dschang / Cameroon