By Prudence Minayo
Franco Ndiba is a Cameroonian artist whose works have gained international recognition. His art pieces have been exhibited in London galleries. The pieces are captivating, telling a story about nature, urbanization and much more.
“Through this form of art, I invite you into a journey of discovery, experience, and introspection as you peel the attitude, feelings and perhaps the thinking of the characters in the painting,” he was quoted by Qazini.
The former fish seller faced a lot of challenges to get to where he is. Sometimes he would even be told to get a real job. Nonetheless, he pushed on. Today, despite having an international audience and market for his art, he does not neglect the local market.
He was born in 1983 in Douala and was raised in the Bepanda Omnisport neighbourhood. Many youths in the area had lofty ambitions of becoming great footballers. However, he was always interested in the arts.
After a dispute with his father during his teenage years, he quit school and entered into the workforce. He was employed to sell fish at a shop, working from 9am to 7pm. When he was not attending to customers, he was making pencil sketches.
One of the regulars at the shop was a painter named Nga Daybor, who owned a screening shop. Taking notice of his skills as a painter, Daybor hired him as a studio assistant and he went on to hold the job for four years.
He credits Daybor for helping him improve his drawing skills and a number of things. The works of Daybor also helped inspire him and he had the opportunity to also learn from other artists, like, Herve Youmbi.
Franco’s work began to be noticed after it was exhibited as part of a collective art exhibition during the 2012 Cameroon National Day. This had been organized by the Ministry of Culture. His work had been spotted at Daybor’s workshop by a curator who was visiting art studios.
This opened a lot of doors for the artist whose work began to be showcased in various art shows. He broadened his artistic works and even got inspirations from various European artists.
This encouraged him to begin developing arts based on the theme of urbanization. Using his art, he drew attention to the unchecked development of constructions and houses in the neighborhood around Douala.
Getting the international market
In 2017, he became the assistant of famous Cameroonian artist, Ajarb Bernard. Bernard’s career was on the rise and he signed a deal with a London gallery named Jack Bell. While Bernard was abroad, Ndiba often sent screenshots of his work.
At one point, Bernard thought the screenshots were so nice that he shared them with a gallery in London, who loved the pieces.
In 2021, Jack Bell commissioned him for ten art pieces, eight of which sold. This was his biggest sale. The paints gained attention from many people, especially as they passed an important message.
They showed people eating bananas and throwing the pieces away without a care, creating awareness about caring for the environment. His art pieces went on to be displayed at a gallery in Cameroon named Annie Kadji. He continues to mentor the youths and encouraging them to embrace visual arts.