By John Owoo
(In Bamako – Mali)
The 2019 edition of Rencontres de Bamako (African Photographic Biennial) was on Saturday opened by the Malian president Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta during a short but colorful ceremony at the National Museum in the capital, Bamako.
In a short speech, the president stated that the biennial is a true platform for exposure and promotion of African and diasporan photographers and videographers adding that it has catapulted several artists onto the international scene.
He likened photography to light, which he said illuminates the world as compared to wars, which is often associated with darkness. The biennial, he said will continue to ensure that light continuously shines on African photography while stressing that the commitment of the Malian people is unshakable.
Minister of Culture N’Diaye Ramatoulaye Diallo paid a glowing to the late Nigerian independent curator Bisi Silva, who headed a team of curators for the 10th edition of the biennial, which took place in 2015 in various locations in Bamako.
She revealed that the biennial offers the opportunity to celebrate the arts in general and photography in particular, which is a powerful antidote to ideological drifts as well as a wonderful vehicle for the promotion of cultural diversity, tolerance and peaceful coexistence.
Curator Dr. Bonaventure Soh Ndikung stated that the theme for 2019 hinges around the circulation of ideas, humans, forms and the fluidity of photography adding that artists need to think of their work as the expression of an inner self.
He added that photography should be seen as a dialogue between artists and spectators or as the artist’s sensory reactions to external events whilst offering thanks to all who made the 2019 edition possible.
French Ambassador to Mali, Joël Meyer, reiterated his country’s commitment to continue its support for Mali’s development agenda including the cultural sector while reminding the crowd of the exemplary partnership between Mali and France.
The 2019 edition was conceived by Dr. Ndikung (Cameroon) with a curatorial team comprising Aziza Harmel (Tunisia), Astrid Sokona Lepoultier (France), Kwasi Ohene-Ayeh (Ghana) and artistic advisors Seydou Camara (Mali) Akinbode Akinbiyi (Nigeria) and Cheick Diallo (Mali).
With Igo Diarra as the Delegate General, the 2019 edition is an invitation to think about the artistic practice of photography as a stream of consciousness, as well as to consider photography beyond the tight corset of the photographic.
Titled “Streams of Consciousness”, a total of eighty-five artists from Africa and the diaspora are participating in this years’ biennial. Indeed, photographs on display were for the first time printed in Mali to support the local industry.
It ends on Friday January 31, 2020.