"Malians themselves need to know about the Bamako Photo Biennial"

August 2009 -

The Bamako Photo Biennial is enjoying increasing popularity. In Mali itself, however, little enthusiasm is shown for the event. That is the opinion of photographer Amadou Sow, and others share his view. "Many people in other countries believe that Mali boasts a lively climate for photography because the Biennial has been organized here since 1994. But that is not true, albeit that the conditions are slowly improving."


Kader ATTIA (Algérie-France), Rochers Carrés, 2009, Format : 80 x 100 cm, exposition panafricaine – Bamako 2009 © Galerie Christian Nagel

"I cannot support myself here with my photography, which is why I also work as a technician with La Maison de la Photographie. We organize about five expositions each year. A few years ago two centres opened offering training courses, the Centre de Formation de la Photographie and the Centre Promofemme, which places sole focus on women aspiring a career in audiovisual art and technology."

The policy of Les Recontres de Bamako Biennale Africaine de la Photographie, the official name of the Biennial, has been a topic of heated discussions in recent years. Sow: "Opting for high quality, as a result of which few Malians have participated in the past seven editions, is understandable. But the organization could do much more to stimulate the photography climate in Mali. Sadly, especially because of the dominance of French participants, it has primarily been a VIP event to date."

"For the next edition, Samuel Sidibe, director of the Bamako National Museum, was appointed to lead the festival early in 2009. He is a powerful and capable individual who will not simply go along with whatever the French funding providers want." Sidibe says nothing about the part played by France in the past, but has announced that changes will be made. "To date Mali has not been able to truly profit from the Biennial. We are going to change that. The Biennial needs to be more visible in Mali, so that the Malians themselves, both photographers and the general public, know more about the event."

The 8th Biennale Africaine de la Photographie takes places from 7 November -  7 December 2009. The theme is 'Borders'.