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Bodi Samba was born on 8 May 1995 in Congo. He is an artist (art director, photographer, stylist and model). His work focuses on the artistic concept “identity” which he developed about 3 years ago. His work also focuses in particular on the identity and diversity of African culture.
Bodi Samba is originally from a small Congolese commune in Kinshasa where he spent most of his childhood. He emigrated to Bourges, France, at the age of 15.
Bodi then moved to Paris where he was introduced to the world of fashion and immediately became interested. Shortly afterwards, he decided to dedicate himself to photography in order to develop his own artistic concept and identity and to better express his artistic expression.
Where are you from, where are you based now? Can you tell us a little about both?
My name is Bodi Samba, I’m 26 years old, I’m from Congo and I’m currently living in Berlin. I’m originally from a small Congolese commune in Kinshasa where I spent most of my childhood. With the help of my father, I decided to migrate to France, to Bourges, when I was 15. Afterwards I moved to Paris where I developed myself as an artist.
Now I live in Berlin, I really like this city, the energy, the mentality, the vibe. It inspires me a lot. This city offers me something that Paris didn’t give me in terms of development, and many other things 😉 haha.
How was the experience of emigration for you from Kinshasa to Bourges? And your move to Paris, how did they all differ, what are memories of yours from them all?
The horrible migration experience!
My father was a close bodyguard of president Mobutu, I don’t know if you know who he is… He is one of the presidents of the Congo and a great dictator too. In 1995 when Mobutu left power all the people who were close to him were sought out (my father too) that’s how he ended up coming to France, thanks to his political contacts. Me and my mother had to leave the country for a while.
I didn’t really have a quiet childhood so to speak, but rather an agitating one. After leaving the Congo, we came back when things were a bit calmer and a few years later we joined my father in France (Bourges).
Bourges was a very special experience. A very complicated period in my life. I was 15 years old, I arrived in a country I didn’t know, I had to start all over again, adapt to life, redo my circle of people etc. I found my father who I hadn’t seen for 15 years… In short, too many things to take into account, but it’s a period that has really shaped me!
How were you introduced to fashion, what attracted you to it when in Paris?
I decided to move to Paris to develop as an artist. A very, very good experience. I met cool and inspiring people who allowed me to and pushed me to develop myself.
As time went by and my work evolved I wanted to discover other things (Berlin). The difference between Bourges and Paris is that Paris is the capital and Bourges is a small town where you study and prepare yourself for the future.
I may not have mentioned it in the first question but I have always developed my artistic side through my circle of friends and family. My aunts are seamstresses, my uncles and my father are from the Sapeurs movement and they naturally made me feel immersed in fashion.
My best childhood friend in the Congo is a painter and he really pushed me to develop my sensitivity through art. My cousin, who is studying fine arts introduced me to photography with the work of Gordon Parks, who traced the history of segregation through photography. That’s when I said to myself that later on I would like to take pictures of these kinds of moments. That was the trigger for me. It all started there!
What attracted me to Paris was the creative movement at the time. I remember a lot of people I met telling me that the best place to do what I wanted to do was Paris. (You know what’s funny about that, after a few years it’s the same people who told me that my vision was too much for Paris! I had to go to another country) but I think my vision would always be too much because no one else can estimate the greatness, or understand my vision like I do!
Tell us about your focus on Identity, what drew you to this as your main concept in shooting?
As you can see and read in my journey so many things have happened. Things that made me realise that I was never really myself and that I should look for the real me. This identity that I never had, this identity that was torn from me, this identity that was taken from me by force.
Today, in what I do as an artist, I am slowly finding that lost identity and more and more I am able to be the person I would like to be. ( Renaissance )
Renaissance = Identity
And this identity artistically.
It is the abstract representation of all my achievements since my beginning. It is about expressing my creative vision in the freest possible way, without a preconceived criteria in order to bring out my own identity as best as possible. Thus, the artist does not have to justify or explain his creation because it comes from their imagination. The work speaks for itself.
To set up my vision I base myself on three elements that allow me to define my artistic identity as well as possible. The first is to express one’s vision, one’s creativity with complete freedom and without any prior criteria, in order to better let one’s own identity exist. A work is the expression of the imagination. The artist does not have to justify himself or explain what he has to say.
All this practice allows me to get a little closer to myself and to find my true nature.
How do you pick your subjects, what stands out to you when deciding on personalities to shoot?
When photographing people, it’s always been about the feeling and what the person represents and gives off.
I always have the impression each time to see something in them, that they don’t see themselves, I don’t know how to explain it, each time it’s a crush and then I can quickly imagine the person in my universe. It goes so fast every time that I don’t even know how to explain it.
What message are you trying to portray in your works and subject matter?
In fact I don’t even try to convey a message through my work, it’s more a question I would like people to ask themselves when they look at my work!
At what point in our lives were we really ourselves (identity)? Everything is connected.
Why photography as the medium?
Why choose photography as a means of expression? Because it is the only place where my imaginary expression becomes real (My identity comes to life). In my basic criteria for creating I say that the work is the expression of the imagination. Everything we create artistically is the fruit of our imagination!
What are you working on currently and what do you have planned for the future?
At the moment I am working on a short film that I have been preparing for a long time and also an exhibition planned for the near future, fingers crossed!
In the future I plan to be at least 10% of my identity. That would be such an achievement.
Where can we find you online?
You can find me on my website or on Instagram: