Born in Bangui, 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.


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

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


Residency at the North Carolina Museum of Art, in association with New Masks Now: Artists Innovating Masquerade in Contemporary West Africa, A NEH funded exhibition in development. March 26-May 30, 2023

Residency at theThe Menil Collection, Houston, TX, in association with Art of the Cameroon Grassfields, A Living Heritage in Houston, February 4-March 18, 2023

Research fellow “Provenance Research on Non­-European Collections and Ethnology in Lower Saxony”(PAESE) in conjunction with Municipal Museum of Brunswick and the State Museum Hanover, Germany

Residency at the Théodore Monod African art museum at IFAN / Ucad, Dakar Part of the research project workshop of “Epistemological Troubles” in order to explore a project (work and / or exhibition) for the year 2022. July 2021

Residency as member of the artist collective “Cercle Kapsiki”. Institut Français, Cité International des Arts, Paris, France. January 15 – April 10, 2021

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

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

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

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
Stanley Museum of Art, Des Moines, Iowa, USA
The Chrysler Museum of Art, Virginia, USA
LWL Museum für Kunst und Kultur, Münster, Germany
Yasmine and Peter König collection, Germany


  • New Masks Now: Artists Innovating Masquerade in Contemporary West Africa, North Carolina Museum of Art. Curators: Amanda M. Maples, Jordan Fenton, Lisa Homann, Hervé Youmbi


Art of the Cameroon Grassfields, A Living Heritage in Houston, The Menil Collection, Houston, TX. Curator: Paul Davis. February 17-July 9, 2023

“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

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

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

“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

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

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 

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

Face 2 Face. Doual’art –Douala/ Cameroun

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

N° 1234. Doual’art – Douala / Cameroon

2006080700. Doual’art – Douala / Cameroon

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

Présence. IFA – Mbalmayo / Cameroon

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


Homecoming: About Face: African Masks in Iowa, Stanley Museum of Art, IA, Aug. 26, 2022—July, 2025
Reimagining the People’s Collection
, North Carolina Museum of Art, Sep. 2022—
Entrelacs/Interlaced, Cité International des arts, Paris. June 3-July 14, 2022
Teg Bët Gëstu Gi ,  Biennale OFF Dakar, Museé Theodore Monod d’art Africain, Senegal, May 21 – June 21, 2022. Curators Emmanuelle Chérel & El Hadji Malick Ndiaye
Sur la Route des Chefferies du Cameroun. Du visible a /’invisible. Musée du quai Branly -Jacques Chirac. April 5th 2022 -July 17th 2022.
“CONTACT(S) ZONE” National Museum of Cameroon, Yaoundé. January 12 -April 30, 2022

“Prospective” Goethe Institute, Yaounde, Cameroon, Oct. 23 – Nov. 11, 2021
“Se Souvenir du Présent, esprits de l’assemblage”, Centre régional d’art contemporain de Montbéliard, (Le 19 CRAC). France. Curators: Anne Griffon-Selle & Arnaud Zohou. Sep 25, 2021 – Jan 16, 2022
“RETOUR, À la recontre de l’Afrique contemporaine” exhibition curated by Sylvain Nzefa and Mélanie Vietmeier, (Africa2020) L’ATELIER, Nantes, France.  May 25, 2021.
“Les fables du callou” Cercle Kapsiki in conjunction with Garage MU (a French collective) will collaborate on a project creating numerous sound installation stations in the neighborhood of la Goutte d’or. Sound stations open to the public April 8, 2021.
“Hey Hamburg, do you know Duala Manga Bell? The exhibition for young people”. March 30, 2021 – December 2022
Zone Franche, exhibition,  partnership of l’Institut des Cultures d’Islam, Think Tangier & Doal’art, Paris, France. Africa 2020 Season. February 3 – August 1, 2021.
Cercle Kapsiki in conjunction with Garage MU (a French collective) will collaborate on a project entitled “Les fables du callou” creating numerous sound installation stations in the neighborhood of la goutte d’or. Sound stations open to the public April 8, 2020.

The Presence of the Past: Art from Central and West Africa, Bowdoin Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine, USA, August 14, 2020 – December 18, 2021
Lumières d’Afriques. Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa. Feb. 21 – April 9

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

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

Arts of Global Africa reinstallation, Newark Museum of Art, New Jersey Dec 8, 2017–2022

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  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Un certain regard. Cannes Festival – Cannes / France

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

Ars & URBIS. Doual’Art – Douala / Cameroon

The Last Pictures Show. Cercle Municipal – Douala / Cameroon

El Boustashy
EL MAX – Alexandria / Egypt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 



Public program | Willie Cole & Hervé Youmbi: A ConversationUniversity of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, Le Moine, IA. April 20, 2023

“Serendipitous Intersections and Long Term-Dialogue Art Making and Research as Collaborative Exchanges”. by Silvia Forni & Hervé Youmbi, PAESE conference. June 22, 2021

“Visage de Masques” Participant on panel convened by Lisa Homman, UNC Charlotte “Transparency, Ethics, and Economics: Working with Living Masquerade artists” ACASA conference, June 20, 2021.

Presentation at  Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Maine. April 22, 2021, “Visages de Masques”

“Dialogues Across the African World #6. From Ritual to Performing Art and Installation, presented by école des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales and Cité internationale des arts, and run by Dominique Malaquais (CR, CNRS-IMAF), Julie Peghini (MCF, Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint Denis University-CEMTI), Christine Douxami (MCF HDR, Franche-Comté University-IMAF) and Sarah Fila-Bakabadio (MCF, CY Cergy Paris Université-AGORA). February 11, 2021

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.

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

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


Sylvan Djache, Cindy Olohou,Nzefa. Dr. Rachel Mariembe. Sur la Route des Chefferies du Cameroun. Du visible a /’invisible. Musée du quai Branly -Jacques Chirac. Skira, 2022. p50-53, p204-205

Se Souvenir du Présent, esprits de l’assemblage, Centre régional d’art contemporain de Montbéliard, (Le 19 CRAC). France. p32, p51, p63
Hey! Do you know Rudolph Duala Manga Bell? MARKK, (Museum Am Rothenbaum). Hamburg, Germany. Eds. Sur Lan Hopmann, Dr. Fiona Sigenthaler
Chika Okeke-Agulu. African Artists : From 1882-Now. Phaidon Press. 2021. p 328.
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
Our Anthropocene: Eco Crises. Catalogue for exhibition curated by Gary van Wyk for the Center for Book Arts, New York.
Skulptur Projekte Münster, 2017
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
Stories tellers Catalog of exhibition at Bandjoun station, Bandjoun/ Cameroun.
“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
Dominique Malaquais, “Into the Vortex.” ART SOUTH AFRICA, pp. 54-59. RSA
Dak’art 2012. Catalogue de la 10ème édition Dakar/ Sénégal
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 
Regard Bénin, Cotonou, Benin:  Ministry of Culture
Une vision contemporaine, acte 2, Yaounde, Cameroon:  World Bank
World One Minute Video and Literature, Rotterdam, Holland:  Lucette ter Borg
Lionel Manga, L’ivresse du papillon » Lionel Manga, Chamonix, France :  Editions Edimontagne
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
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
Art convention, Douala, Cameroon:  Bonaprison Centre for the Arts
Eté 72, Le Mans, France:  Centre Culturel de la Sarthe
The Last Pictures Show, Douala, Cameroon:  Gondwana
Ngone Fall et al.Anthologie de l’art africain du 20ème siècle, Paris, France:   Editions Revue Noire
Nicolas Bissek, Les peintres de l’estuaire, Paris, France:  Karthala

“Into Nature : Out of darkness” Creative residency Groningen/ Netherlands

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

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

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

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

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

Bag Factory, Johannesburg / South Africa

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

Cité Internationale des Arts – Paris / France

ArtBakery – Bonendale / Cameroon

Village de sable – Touba Dialaw / Senegal

El Max – Alexandria / Egypte

2002 – 2003
New-Bell – Douala / Cameroon

Alliance Française de Dschang – Dschang / Cameroon