10th Bamako Encounters, African Biennale of Photography

Words by Teresa Sartore
October 26, 2015

The 10th Bamako Encounters, African Biennale of Photography, will take place from 31 October to 31 December 2015. The Bamako Encounters provide an important platform for photographers in Africa and the diaspora, displaying their work to an international public. After a four-year break, due to events in Mali, the Bamako Encounters are back with a powerful programme curated by the outstanding Artistic Director Bisi Silva, supported by her Associate Exhibition Curators Antawan I. Byrd and Yves Chatap. The theme chosen for this edition is Telling Time: participating artists are invited to reflect on the notion of time as a means of rethinking the past, discussing the present, and imagining the future. Conventional interpretations of time are reframed using photography, film, video and animation. As a result, perspective on time are fragmented and plural, offering new points of view and original experiences.

“The concept of time in Africa has been the subject of popular and philosophical debates concerning political and technological belatedness, questions of colonial temporalities characterised by their links with the rise of capitalism, as well as the interventions made by liberation movements in radically deconstructing colonial time through projects of freedom, independence, and the development of civic identity. Yet the selected artists position these debates and histories as incomplete and ongoing, intervening through topical investigations on recent sociopolitical conflict (…) and through thematic studies of built environments (…)”, says the introductory statement of the curators.

In addition to the central international exhibition Telling Time, which features the work of 26 photographers and 13 video artists from across Africa and the Diaspora, including special homage presentations of Malian artist Bakary Diallo and South African artist Thabiso Sekgala, the biennale offers an ambitious programme of monographic and thematic exhibitions.

Through monographic exhibitions, the biennale presents a filmic work by South African artist William Kentridge that mediates on time and transmission of knowledge; works by Syrian/Armenian artist Hrair Sarkissian, whose videos and photography explore experiences of displacement, history and memory; and a survey of work by the Nigerian photographer J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere, which chronicles the visual representation of post-colonial subjectivity and nationalism in Nigeria. The “Lusophone Focus” series is anchored by a monographic exhibition of Brazilian artist Ayrson Heráclito, whose powerful performances, video, and photography work offers incisive investigations of the African presence in Brazil. This programme includes the film exhibition Ilha de São Jorge, curated by Beyond Entropy Africa, and a participatory art project by (consisting of creatives Todd Lanier Lester, Thiago Correia Gonçalves, and Jaime Lauriano) that uses food and photography to question the intertwined cultural histories of Brazil and West Africa.

The biennale’s thematic exhibitions Tu M’aimes, Against Time: The Tierney Fellowship Project, To The Future and Back and 1384 Days Wide similarly emphasize questions of temporality and storytelling through explorations of the body, democracy, and politics across geographic and social contexts.

The problem of local engagement challenges the staging and sustainability of biennales across the world, and offers an important context for the curators’ response to the cultural setbacks Mali has experienced following threats to the country’s political sovereignty since 2012. Through its “Mali Focus” programme, the curatorial team critically examines the biennale’s 20-year history through a presentation of archival documents and objects in the exhibition [Re]generations, while the “Mali Jaw” project consists of 10 mini-exhibitions across Bamako that present the archives of photography studios within their immediate communities. The exhibition En Connexion… by Malian curator Chab Touré assesses local developments in contemporary photography by introducing a new generation of Malian photographers, while an ambitious pedagogy programme aims to engage up to 100 schools across Bamako.

An important objective of the biennale is to provide a platform for countries with an emerging photographic practice. This is done through presentation of workshops that have taken places during the inter-biennale period. This year we present new works from emerging photographic platforms in Algeria through an exhibition organised by Bruno Boudjelal, and the work of young Nigeriens inspired by the photographs of Niamey nightlife of the 1970s by Philippe Koudjina Ayi. Koudjina’s work will be presented alongside the work contemporary Nigerien photographers in an exhibition curated by Philippe Guionie.

The Bamako Encounters are organized by Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Crafts in Mali in collaboration with the Institut français.

Keep up to date with My Art Guides
Sign up to our newsletter and stay in the know with all worldwide contemporary art events