Collection Artwork
Barthélémy Toguo (born M'Balmayo, Cameroon, 1967)
Stupid African President 1
2006
digital inkjet print
paper size: 42 7/8 x 30 7/8 in.
frame size: 44 1/2 x 32 1/2 x 1 3/4 in.
Gift of the artist
2012.7.1
edition of 3 with 1 AP

Installation views

Object Labels

Gazing intently at the viewer and wearing a Western-style pinstripe suit, artist Barthélémy Toguo acts as an African leader who professes to realize the dreams of his people. But Toguo’s African president is “stupid”—he realizes no goals, keeps no promises. The map behind him, from 1911, references the imperialistic foreign powers that led to many of the problems Africa faces today. The map’s lines are a direct result of the Berlin Conference of 1884–1885, when European heads of state gathered to carve up the African continent into profit-making colonies and agreed to how they would continue their “scramble for Africa” in forthcoming years. Conceived with no input from African people, the borderlines completely lacked relevance to existing ethnic groups or any region’s cultural or linguistic traditions. People were divided; sides were created where none before existed.

Even after decades of independence, Africans remain divided by arbitrary, imperialistic borders. What does it mean when people have no control over their continent’s future? What does it mean to be controlled by a power that doesn’t understand you?

From the exhibition: Other Side:
Art, Object, Self (August 12, 2017 – January 3, 2018)

Stupid African President 1 and 2 make explicit the critical nature of Barthélémy Toguo’s political stance, expressed in terms at once theatrical and steeped in a sense of the absurd. The first photograph shows a smartly attired Toguo standing before a map of colonial Africa, as if addressing some topic of serious continental relevance. The possibility of taking this image as a straightforward representation of African leadership is undermined not only by the title, but by its pendant image, Stupid African President 2, in which the artist wears a rumpled white worksuit and balances a chainsaw ludicrously on his head.

From the exhibition: Environment and Object
Recent African Art (February 5 – July 31, 2011)

Ongoing Research

Research on our collection is ongoing. If you have resources you’d like to share, please contact Associate Curator Rebecca McNamara.

Learn more

Other Side:
Art, Object, Self
Exhibition
Environment and Object
Recent African Art
Exhibition
i
Pattern by Jonnea Herman ’18
Inspired by the annual February Tang <3 Students Event
The Tang Pattern Project celebrates the Museum’s 20th anniversary. Organized by Head of Design Jean Tschanz-Egger, past and current Tang Design Interns created patterns inspired by the Museum’s exhibition and event history.