Established in Mali in 1994, Rencontres Africaines de la Photographie or Bamako Encounters is the first international festival of its kind devoted to photography from the African continent. Founded by Mali’s Ministry of Culture together with the Institut Francais the festival is dedicated to the elevation of African photographers.
The event that takes place across numerous venues within the city is the home of the Pan African exhibition, held at the Museum of Mali, and it is arguably one of the festival’s main attractions. The exhibition will showcase the work of forty artists from across the continent. This year’s photographic and video works appear under the title ‘Afrotopia’ bracing different components of African culture and heritage, in order to redefine subjects such as African bodies, sexuality and politics and is aimed atdeveloping possible futures for nations.
Marie-Ann Yemsi is the curator of the Biennale and her title selection of ‘Afrotopia’ is an invitation to the featured artists to contextualize what and who will drive the future as well as the continent’s influence on a globalised world.
The African Biennale of Photography, is currently in its 11th edition of which South Africa’s very own Athi-Patra Ruga was awarded the Seydou Keïta Prize, the Grand Prize of the Rencontres de Bamako.
As the general delegate of Bamako, Samuel Sidibe expresses the festival creates great visibility for photographers from the continent contributing to the emergence of current African photography both in the professional landscape and to the general public.
Enforcing the value of questions raised by African artists on the historical and social issues that are distinct to them, Bamako acts as an advocate for the verbalisation and contemporary visualisation of these questions. Platforms such as Bamako is of vital importance and has been from its inception in 1994.
The biennale brings to light the issues that African artists are concerned and faced with emphasizing their validity. Despite all difficulties that the festival has seen like that of its 10th addition which saw Mali in a state of emergency despite having taken a four-year break, the festival prevailed and continues to elevate and honour some of the most noteworthy imagery and image makers on the African continent.
The biennale took off on the 2 December and will run to the 31 January 2018. After the festival Bamako, the Recontres will be held at the National Museum of World Cultures from April 2018.