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SDC Visual Arts

Bamako Encounters Photography Biennial

Bamako Encounters Photography Biennial

Bamako, Mali

30 November 2019 – 31 January 2020


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. The two artists are Nirveda Alleck from Mauritius and Kabena Godelive Kasangati from the Democratic Republic of Congo.