Afrotopia is the 11th Rencontres de Bamako which takes place in an Africa and is benefitting from a Western enthusiasm that neither terrorism nor social, political or military conflicts can shake. A new generation of African thinkers and cultural activists are renewing interpretative frameworks and are staking their hopes on Africa providing solutions.
The Biennale will be called Afrotopia, also the title of the book by Senegalese writer Felwine Sarr, and it reflects the commitment to ensuring that this historic and pioneering event for photography is integral to the new forces for change, by embracing them and taking part of this change. Curator of this edition is Marie-Ann Yemsi, born in Germany to German and Cameroonian parents, she founded her own agency, Agent Créatif(s) with a focus on African creatives.
The title-manifesto Afrotopia conveys a contribution to a world in which it is necessary to invent the resources of the future. The plan for the next Biennale is envisaged as a creative space for artists to invent using their own language. The artistic project is built around this contemporary area of focus and it invites us to reconsider the issues and objectives through a collaborative dynamic and the introduction of a Committee of curatorial advisors, in a participatory spirit that gives the artists an active forum to make themselves heard.
For the exhibition 40 committed and faithful proposals have been selected from amongst 300 applications received. These proposals are the witnesses to the issues faced by the continent. The exhibitions designed with guest curators form a consistent ensemble and explore in greater depth the themes and concerns of the artists in the exhibition. More than ever, this edition takes stock of the diversity of image uses and offers an energetic narrative of the fertile crossover of perspectives. The National Museum of Mali will become the Biennale Village, where a forum will bring people together to explore ideas and exchange views on different artistic, cultural and social themes. The format will be unstructured and open to all disciplines, with speakers from all fields, such as philosophers, poets, musicians, historians, sociologists, writers.
Inclusiveness and sharing is central in this Biennale with the Malian public. All the exhibition venues are suitable for school visits within the scope of an educational programme. The Biennale will also reach out to an audience with little access to art thanks to Ciné Photo Mobile, a convivial artistic project inspired by travelling cinemas and open-air screenings. Designed with the collaboration of Anna-Alix Koffi, Ciné Photo Mobile will present a selection of photographs from the Biennale’s exhibitions to a musical accompaniment in public squares in various districts of Bamako. Lastly, galleries, community centres and cultural activists have prepared fringe events that will spread throughout the entire city.