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11th Rencontres de Bamako: African Biennale of Photography unveils programme
Musa N. Nxumalo, Bongani Msiza - Alternative Kidz Series, 2009.

BAMAKO.- Anne Tallineau, Chief Executive Officer of the Institut français and Samuel Sidibé, Delegate-General of the Rencontres de Bamako, with Marie-Ann Yemsi, Curator, have today unveiled the programme of the 11th Rencontres de Bamako – African Biennale of Photography, which will be held from 2 December 2017 to 31 January 2018. The professional days will take place from 2 to 5 December 2017.

The Pan-African exhibition at the Musée National du Mali represents the heart of the event, around which the Biennale village is organised, where dialogue between artists and professionals is promoted, and which occupies the entire park next to the Musée National. The Rencontres also take place at various locations throughout the city of Bamako, such as the Musée du District and the Institut français.

For the Pan-Afriacn exhibition, around 40 African photographers and video artists based all over the continent or in its diasporas have been selected from more than 300 applicants considered for the 11th Rencontres. This demonstrates constant progress in the Biennale’s drawing power and importance, both for emerging African artists and for experienced photographers.

This year’s Rencontres, entitled Afrotopia, aim to explore the evolving dynamics, and with them African’s unique challenge to establish itself at the centre of its own worldview, as a vital resource for a planet faced with the urgent need to reinvent its future. Their starting point is the definition of Afrotopia formulated by the Senegalese intellectual Felwine Sarr in an essay whose title we borrow for the 2017 Biennale: “An active utopia, with a self-appointed mission to seek out and fertilize the vast spaces of possibility in the reality of Africa today”. This event thus invokes an African contribution in a world in which future resources must be reassessed.

For this edition, the exhibition curator has decided to change the Biennale’s organisational process. She has introduced a collaborative method of selecting artists by setting up an International Curatorial Advisory Committee, composed of cultural stakeholders, most of whom have a commitment to Africa.

Invited members of the Curatorial Advisory Committee are as follows: Sammy Baloji (Artist, Co-Founder of the Picha Encounters - Biennale of Lubumbashi, DRC), Olfa Feki (Architect, independant Curator/Consultant and Regional Representative in Europe/Africa of the agency NOOR images, Tunis, Tunisia), Rébecca Lamarche-Vadel (Curator at Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France), Lekgetho James Makola (Artist, Filmmaker and Head of the Market Photo Workshop, Johannesburg, South Africa), Aïda Muluneh (Artist, Founder/Managing Director of Addis Foto Fest and DESTA For Africa Creative Consulting PLC, Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia), Azu Nwagbogu (Founder/Director of the ‘African Artists’ Foundation and LagosPhoto Festival, Director/Editor-in-Chief Art Base Africa and Curator, Lagos, Nigeria).

Several exhibition projects have already been confirmed, such as the retrospective of the oeuvre of James Barnor, pioneer of Ghanaian photography, famous for his work achieved during the period in which Ghana gained independence in the 1950s. Clémentine de la Féronnière is the exhibition’s guest curator.

At the same time, the young South African curator Justin Davy explores the importance of music, from the era of independence to the present day through a collection of vinyl records from the African continent.

In resonance with the exhibitions, a Forum in the Biennale village provides an intangible counterpart to the event, offering a discussion area for artists and other intellectuals, the programme for which will be provided at a later date. In particular, a series of masterclasses organised within the Forum will offer an opportunity to examine the stakes and challenges of the Bamako Biennale.

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