Issa Nyaphaga – The Art of Exile {World Policy Blog #2}

Posted on October 25, 2010 | No Comments

Issa Nyaphaga is known as the ragman of painting. He creates art out of garbage – anything from mud and sand to feathers and human hair. Nyaphaga gives disposed items a sort of renewal.

But his artwork represents much darker story of rebirth. Nyaphaga was raised in a small village in the equatorial forests of Cameroon. After high school, he worked as a political cartoonist for the newspaper, Le Messager Popoli. In 1994, Cameroon’s regime jailed and tortured Nyaphaga for oppositional ideas expressed in his controversial cartoons. Two years later, Nyaphaga escaped Cameroon to seek asylum in France.

Since his escape, Nyaphaga has continued his passion throughout France and the United States with the support of organizations such as freeDemensional. Nyaphaga is currently working on the development of a philosophical installation called Urban Way, which combines body paint, music and performance in a symbolic protest against his exile. The artist also created Capillarism, a painting technique in which a layer of human hair lies on the canvas beneath the paint, adding a unique texture to his work.

In addition to his own art projects, he also has taught painting courses at universities, led workshops for at-risk children and illustrated books in France. In 2002, Nyaphaga founded Hope International for the Tikar People, an organization that provides school and health care supplies, such as wheelchairs and books, to seven Tikar villages in Cameroon. He also co-founded the organization African Journalists in Exile, which supports oppressed writers. Nyaphaga has been cheap oakley featured in two documentaries, one – called The Pen in Exile – about his life, with a third in progress.

By Hannah Oppenheimer

The World Policy Journal is featuring five freeDimensional stakeholders on its blog this Fall in relation to its current issue, The Creative Canon.

Photo via flickr courtesy of networkcultures.


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