Barthélémy Toguo was born in Cameroon in 1967, and currently splits his time living between Bandjoun, Cameroon and Paris, France. Toguo has used a variety of mediums in his artwork over the course of his career, including film, photography, and watercolor paints, and often appears as subjects in his own pieces. His photographic works are often described as a combination of performance art and portrait photography, which are useful to reflect on a variety of social and political issues, including race, war, immigration, and the environment.
Cameroon is an oil rich country and also considered one of the most mineral rich countries in West Africa. Most of the oil and gas exploration in Cameroon is done offshore in the Gulf of Guinea by multinational corporations (MNCs) which has a negative effect on the marine life and water quality. While many may consider the foreign involvement in Cameroon to be beneficial for the economy, the opposite effects continue to occur.
The third piece of Toguo’s Stupid African President series tells the story of Cameroon President Paul Biya succumbing to the dominance of MNCs, particularly as they relate to oil and natural resource extraction. The piece represents the Cameroonian citizen, sitting inside an empty, white-painted oil barrel with the words “Afrika Oil?” outside of the barrel in red. While several African countries like Nigeria, Angola, Congo, and Cameroon are rich in oil, it is unclear as to where the wealth from the oil is distributed, particularly as so many Africans experience poverty and food insecurity. Toguo leaves this question up to the viewer to discover, but he points out that MNCs exploit lands and people of Africa and corrupt political leaders play a role in this.