In the Perrotin show, Samson empowered his subjects in a more overtly political way. Three of the included paintings, Inyongo 1, 2, and 3 (all 2020), feature the Cecil John Rhodes Memorial on Devil’s Peak in Cape Town. The landmark commemorates the eponymous British imperialist, colonizer, and diamond magnate. “It’s not a place of good memories,” the artist explained. Before he began the suite of paintings, Samson organized a photo shoot at the statue with friends from his hometown. In the resulting compositions, they wear blue jeans and bare chests or white coverings, expressing themselves through their clothing. Through his powerful group portraits, Samson began to reclaim the monument’s narrative for the city’s non-white community.
Such problems of representation and power, of course, transcend the art world, and Samson believes that issues of race and equity are particularly important right now. He noted that critics themselves have failed to acknowledge artists of African descent for far too long and must open the gates to previously unappreciated talent. He’s skeptical of using the word “Black” as a descriptor, due to its slippery, politicized, and variable meanings.