Cameroonian artist Fred Ebami is using his artwork to celebrate African and African American pop icons, and to bring attention to important social and political issues. Born in Villeneuve-la-Garenne, France and having spent time living in the U.S., the 45-year-old says he was heavily inspired by the pop art movement of the late 1950s, as well as manga and comic books.
Channeling artists like Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, Ebami uses bright colors to create digital portraits of Black icons from a variety of fields, such as sports and music. His works of art have included depictions of Muhammad Ali, Angela Davis, Wole Soyinka, Nina Simone, Fela Kuti, and Kanye West.
Recreating a version of Andy Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup Cans,” Ebami created his own “Pepper Soup” rendition, paying homage to the spicy soup so popular in Cameroon and Nigeria.
“African versions though… a bit more spicy!” he said in an interview with AFP. “Pop art is inspired by popular culture and is critical of a consumerist society. I also want to play with that.”
Unafraid to produce purposeful pieces that serve as commentary on controversial social and political topics, Fred Ebami also creates art “to foster a debate, a discussion.”
Last year, he created a portrait of one of the leading youth activists who had been protesting against police brutality in Nigeria, Aisha Yesufu. She was depicted raising her fist along with the words “stop the bleeding.”
“The issue of police violence does not just concern Nigeria. It’s also something you find elsewhere in Africa, but also in Paris, in the United Sates, and I thought it was important to support the movement (against it),” said Ebami.
Exhibiting his work in Lagos, Nigeria and Brest, France, Ebami hopes to make his art accessible to everyone.
“I don’t want my art to be shown only in galleries,” he said. “I want it to touch as many people as possible.”
Ebami also showcases his work on his social media and had partnered with a Nigerian design brand, selling a limited number of T-shirts and household items.