Chéri Samba. "Condemnation without Trial". 1989-90

Chéri Samba "Condemnation without Trial" 1989-90

  • Not on view

"Condemnation without Judgment" is meant to be read as a narrative from left to right, as in a comic strip. The top half shows the artist in a Western-style suit and stylish sunglasses, returning home to Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, after a prolonged stay in France. Friends and family members are waiting for him at the airport with hands outstretched in anticipation of the fortune they expect him to have brought back from Europe. The bottom half depicts Samba waking in a sweat from a nightmare in which he is murdered in his sleep for his alleged wealth.

Through his art Samba communicates moral messages and autobiographical events. In "Condemnation without Judgment" he confronts his position between cultures as a successful international artist. Writing both in Lingala (the common language in Kinshasa) and in French, he explains the reality of his situation to the viewer: "I have spent much time in this foreign country, but I have not earned much money. Better to return home before I finish what little I have earned." He arrives under a welcome banner from L’Association Flatteurs (Association of Flatterers), and his compatriots carry a sign that reads (in translation) "Local Committee of Beggars." With these labels Samba introduces the ironic humor that typically pervades his work.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 85.
Alkyd enamel and glitter paint on canvas
58 3/8" x 6' 7" (148.3 x 200.7 cm)
Gift of Evan and Vanessa Tawil
Object number
Painting and Sculpture

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