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Mali’s Rencontres de Bamako Biennial Announces Details for Eleventh Edition

Mali’s African photography biennial, the Rencontres de Bamako, has unveiled the upcoming program for its eleventh edition, which will be held at the Musée National du Mali and at various locations across the city of Bamako from December 2, 2017, to January 31, 2018.

Curator Marie-Ann Yemsi established a curatorial advisory committee to select around forty African photographers and video artists from more than three hundred submissions to participate in the exhibition. Titled “Afrotopia,” the biennial aims to explore Africa’s attempt to establish itself as the center of its own worldview. The artists were asked to consider the meaning of Afrotopia, defined by Senegalese intellectual Felwine Sarr as “an active utopia, with a self-appointed mission to seek out and fertilize the vast spaces of possibility in the reality of Africa today.”

The curatorial advisory committee was made up of artist Sammy Baloji; architect and independent curator Olfa Feki; Rébecca Lamarche-Vadel, curator at Palais de Tokyo, Paris; artist and filmmaker Lekgetho James Makola, who is the head of the Market Photo Workshop, Johannesburg; Aïda Muluneh, artist and founder/managing director of Addis Foto Fest and DESTA For Africa Creative Consulting PLC, Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia; Azu Nwagbogu, founding director of the African Artists’ Foundation and LagosPhoto Festival and director and editor in chief of Art Base Africa, Lagos, Nigeria.

Highlights of the exhibition will include a retrospective of the oeuvre of James Barnor, a pioneer of Ghanaian photography who is famous for works he produced during the 1950s, when Ghana gained independence.

Established in 1994, Recontres de Bamako was forced to cancel its tenth edition, due to take place in 2013, after an armed conflict erupted between Tuareg nationalist rebels and government forces in the northern part of the country. The exhibition returned in 2015 with its eleventh edition, “Telling Time,” curated by Bisi Silva. A month after its opening, an Islamist gunman killed more than twenty people in a mass shooting at the central Radisson Blu Hotel.