Santa Fe, New - New York City - Paris - Cameroon
Issa Nyaphaga was born in Douala, Cameroon (central Africa) in 1967 and grew up in the small village of the Tikar tribe, called Nditam, in the very heart of Cameroon’’s equatorial forest. The Tikar are primarily farmers and as a child of the fields, Issa spent his time in close contact with earth and nature. Like other Tikar children, Issa was introduced to traditional painting in his early childhood. His father is an herbalist and a calligrapher, and Issa grew up next to shaman pygmy women deep in the region of “Mbam and Kim” in Cameroon. As a child, Issa didn’t like his last name Nyaphaga. “My son, you’ll only be successful in life if you like your name,” his mother said.
He was raised in a Muslim family and went to a French school- the only one in the village- where the Bible was the main teaching subject. After school, in the evening, he studied the Koran before calling upon ancestral spirits during Animist ceremonies. “Today, my thought is close to Buddhism. I wake up every morning with a different feeling.” As a young artist he began to feel restless. “I needed to do more, get involved in something significant and crazy,” says Issa.
After high school, Issa started working as a political cartoonist, illustrator and reporter in a weekly satirical newspaper, Le Messager Popoli. His opposition to the political regime in Cameroon led him to several trips to jail in 1994.
In 1996 he escaped from his country to seek asylum in France. There he began collaborating with the famous photographer Jacqueline Hyde, a former assistant to Man Ray, also known for her work with Botero, Zao Wou Ki (Nobel Prize in Literature), Nicolas de Stael and the two iconic North American painters Riopelle and Joan Mitchell. Issa has worked with many other photographers as well and has been the subject of several documentaries focusing on his life and journey. And has illustrated and co-authored several books published in the United States and France.
Issa has developed a unique painting technique, known as “Capillarism”, which uses human hair as a first layer on his canvases (paper, canvas, wood and hardboard) prior to applying color. He also experiments with different textures such as sand, mud, feathers, recycled material and leather. He is said to be the “ragman of painting” because he rummages in garbage cans, picking up and collecting all kind of objects. He primarily works with salvaged objects. ““I turn disused objects away from their first use a