Issa Nyaphaga is a cartoonist, and a multi-media artist based in the US, who is globally known as a human rights activist from Cameroon (West/central Africa). His work has inspired the human spirit of thousands in dozens of countries. Issa Nyaphaga is convinced that the power of art can save lives.
My “Humanist” endeavour is above all a proclamation of peace against intolerance. My soul is of a body that has suffered a lot because of the political cartoons in the satirical newspaper in Cameroon. I live in a world in which I am undesirable, and I’ve found refuge in art, a refuge where I can protect myself against all aggression. I came into contact with the Human Rights issues at a very early age, and defending the rights of the oppressed gives me this force of conviction, this feeling of invincibility and the inner peace I seek. I’m like the pages of an open book blown by the winds of liberty.
I use Art to heal myself and others; because Art really cures and can transform a broken Human Being into a new rebirthed soulful individual. In my studio projects, I’m painting Cartoons on canvas to bring a sense of humor in the drama, with my critical vision of Global Peaceful Society.
I have trained child soldiers how to Love art like children. I led street children how to see and live differently and I have accompanied people with disabilities how to create resourceful art projects like any individual.
Being a person who has suffered intolerance and persecution, I would like to stop being a victim and live like anyone else. But the past reminds me of whom I am: an outsider. That is why my philosophy of including certain parts of my body in my art –namely my hands and feet– to convey my emotions is for me a successful process of resilience. It is an act of protest, the rebellion of a man who cannot return home. This endeavour helps me cope with my current status as a man and a citizen of urban worlds, wandering around the globe.
Music plays an important role in this work. especially when I’m <<performing>>.
I came to the residency program in March 2009 when I was granted the Joan Mitchell Fellowship. The purpose of my residency was to find retreat after my trauma as a persecuted intellectual, and it was an opportunity for me to develop new body of work and transfer my knowledge to the communities of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
My first experience was to develop a workshop for four weeks with the group of students of IAIA (Institute of American Indian Arts) which I successfully completed.
SFAI hosted an event for me to perform my “Urban Way” in order to create awareness and raise funds for my development project in Cameroon. After my residency, I decided to live in Santa Fe, where I feel safer than anywhere in the world. Here, I’m who I want to be, an artist, an activist, a teacher, and a global community organizer.