VIes Rencontres Africaines de la Photographie.
Bamako 2005. Un Autre Monde.
Edited by Simon Njami, with a foreword by Moussa Konate.
Editions Erik Koehler, Paris, 2005. 253 pp., black-and-white and color illustrations throughout, 9¾x13″.
Every two years Bamako hosts the “Rencontres Africaines de la Photographie,” a photography festival that over the last ten years has brought together hundreds of artists. With Simon Njami as the head curator since 2001, the festival aims to showcase the wealth of contemporary African photography within an international-art context by bringing together photographers from many African countries, as well as one country not on the continent. This guest country for the 6th African Encounters of Photography was Spain, and Joan Fontcuberta was one of the photographers. For a month this past November, the capital city of Mali was bustling more than usual. If you didn’t make it to see the thousands of photographs by more than 100 photographers, the festival catalogue enables you to get a sense of the amazing breadth and scope of the work presented. The catalogue, with cover photo by Helga Kohl, is organized according to the festival exhibits and events. For example, “Monographic Exhibitions” features Dorris Haron Kasco, whose work is in Flash Afrique!, as well as Serge E. Jongué, Youssouf Sogodogo and Malick Sidibé. Sidibé’s work had also been included in the first “Rencontres” in 1994. Already well known in Mali, his work become known to a wider audience thanks to this festival. This time around he is acknowledged as one of the greats in Malian photography. Inspired by the theme un autre monde, meaning “another world,” the “International Exhibition” features 37 talented photographers from 17 African countries. This exhibit includes Bruno Hadjih from Algeria, Jacques Kuyten of Reunion and his Sanctuaries series, Yoyo Gonthier also of Reunion, Uchechukwu James Iroha from Nigeria, and Mark Lewis from South Africa. “National Exhibitions” further explores the photographic diversity on the African continent, concentrating on photographers from Algeria, Sudan and specifically Bamako, Mali. The Algerian component contains work by nine Algerian press photographers and is curated by Michket Krifa, whose scholarly commentary is included in Nazar: Photographs from the Arab World. Each section consists of essays and artist bios in both French and English. I have only begun to discuss all the facets of the biennial and its catalogue. This is the venue to watch for inspiring and exciting work time and time again; if you cannot make it to Mali it is essential that you add these catalogues to your collection. – Larissa Leclair
Originally published in the Photo-eye Booklist, Spring 2006.