Founded in 1994, the Rencontres de Bamako Biennale Africaine de la Photographie (Bamako Encounters Photography Biennial) is the first and main international event dedicated to African photography and video on the continent. The biennial has become an important platform for African and diaspora photographers, the Malian public and professionals from all over the world to discover and exchange. The 2019 12th edition, marking the biennial’s 25th anniversary, is curated by Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, an independent curator and founder of Savvy – “laboratory of ideas” in Kassel, Germany.
The theme for this edition is Streams of Consciousness, in reference to the first track of the eponymous album by Abdullah Ibrahim and Max Roache. The curator extends the theme as a metaphor for the flux of ideas, peoples, cultures that flow across and with the Niger River. Africa has long ceased to be a geographical concept limited to its geographical space. As a global concept, Africa is concerned with people of African descent spread all over the world (Asia, Oceania, Europe, America) and on the African continent. Through the dynamics of photography it is a question of giving rise to currents of consciousness that are born from and beyond the coasts of the African continent.
Swiss multidisciplinary artist Mats Staub will travel to Bamako to develop local content for his ongoing Death and Birth in My Life project. This will be the first opportunity to make recording in a West African and Islamic country, which Mats believes will enrich the the scope of the project. Mats will work with local partner Fari Foni Waati who will assist with on-the-ground project development. While in Bamako Mats will explore future programming possibilities for the project with the biennial.
Death & Birth approaches universal themes through individual experiences and in relation to local contexts. In every place it is presented it brings people together to talk to each other about their experiences of death and birth – while also presenting conversations from other regions and establishing connections from one side of the world to another. In Death & Birth he brings two people together in a clearly defined space and enables them to engage each other in conversation while he is present as an invisible companion. The participants are filmed both speaking and listening – so visitors to the installation will be able to look at the faces of both the speakers and the listeners shown on two screens.
Through our Regional Arts Programme financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) will be supporting two artists from the region to attend and present work during the biennial.
Nirveda Alleck (Mauritius) is a multidisciplinary artist whose work addresses the human subject. She is interested in discovering and analyzing people and cultures from different places, and reflecting on the characteristics that are distinct to them. Nirveda trained at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, South Africa, and the Glasgow School of Art, Scotland. She has participated in workshops and residencies in Namibia, South Africa, Lebanon, Mali, Mauritius, United States, among others. Nirveda has exhibited widely on international platforms, including Dak’Art Biennale, College des Bernardins in Paris, Marakesh Biennale Parallel projects, Africa Utopia in London, and the Ben Uri Gallery in the UK among many others.
In Bamako, her 2015 video work Breathe will be shown. Nirveda describes the work: “This performance based work was created in the sacred lake of Grand Bassin in Mauritius, whereby milk and red pigment became the words one uses to speak through water, to converse, and find an equitable ground through which language can become new, meaningful again, in an attempt to coerce things to happen, by subverting and perpetuating myths and rituals. Done in collaboration with artist Katia Bourdarel, the performance allowed for the unsaid to be spoken, as under water, we have only limited space to breathe out and through that breath, which substitutes for a spoken phrase, a strange story was read and dispersed in the water’s flow. We both don’t remember it anymore as it was instinctual.”
Kabena Godelive Kasangati (DRC) is a master class student in photography and graduated in painting at the Kinshasa Academy of Fine Arts. She has participated in many group exhibitions. She is interested in documentary and artistic photography, and focuses on the search for beauty in the everyday.
Kabena’s work Foreigner will be included in the Biennale, She describes the project: “This project is a reflection on identity. My starting point is an exploration of my past and present, as a memory or reality. It is also a reflection on family breakdown and the feelings of fear and loneliness that result from it. These feelings are the result of the absence of some loved ones, such as my sisters and brothers, or of certain events, such as my parents’ divorce. These wounds were not manifested in words, but rather in the fear of facing the world. My work tries to recreate particular moments that transcribe the emotions felt over all these years. It also testifies to the strength that has come out of me to guide me towards absolute freedom.”