The first thing one notice’s about Salum Kambi's body map is the large map of the African continent in black at his very core. The outline of mainland Tanzania, his homeland, is highlighted in white. The work is more deliberately representational than much of his usual style of painting, and it is rendered primarily in black, white and red--the three primary colors in Bantu societies and languages.
The large red heart symbolizing peace and love is also placed within his body in an anatomically and poetically correct location. Most of the remaining detail is exterior to the image of his own body, unlike many typical body maps. But Kambi also provides a very personal link for us, placing the imprint of his hand both inside its anatomical position and outside the outline of his body.
This step of incorporating the whorls and arches of his fingerprints--the artist's embodied present--with the palmist's lines and creases in his hand--his spiritual and metaphysical destiny--links the sparse interior with the busy exterior in a way that links body and spirit, past, present and future.
These hand prints lead to images indicating the importance of community (the rural women on the right side), tradition (the Maasai moran, or warriors, in their initiation dance to the left) and environment (the image of Mount Kilimanjaro in the upper right).
These, along with the green and yellow brush strokes that ground the image at the head and feet--are painted in the artist's more typical contemporary style. Also apparent are images with more obvious 21st century significance: a wrist watch, football and musical notes. These nods to the present confirm Kambi's artistic objective to represent these traditional Afrocentric values contexts to a post-colonial and global audience.
The achingly rich color palate found in the works of artist Salum Kambi are made all the more striking when one realizes that amazingly, he has had no formal art training. Born in 1970 in Dar es Salaam, the Tanzania artist works primarily in Oil & Acrylic. Kambi's technique, in which he uses either a palate knife or a fine brush, sometimes both, can best be described as a coming together of Lyrical Abstract & Fauvism. The result of combining the two? Breathtaking works that burn with a bold yet accessible color intensity.
In 2004, Salum Kambi was the first Tanzanian artist to be selected for the Africa Festival in Rome, Italy. That same year, one of his paintings was chosen for the reception building of the State House in Dar es Salaam. Since then, his works have been shown and collected in several countries Finland, Sweden, Germany, Netherlands, and Italy. Most recently, one of his works was chosen for the home of Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete.