AFTER several months that Bisi Silva was said to have been chosen to lead the 10th Bamako Encounters, African Biennale of Photograhy, the Ministry of Culture, Mali and Institut Français have formally announced the appointment of Silva as Artistic Director of the event. But Silva has the challenge of Telling Time,in the theme of the event.
Silva’s credentials on the international art space has been on the rise recently. She was the only black in a five-member jury at 55th Venice Biennale in 2013. But the Bamako event is a bigger challenge. “The position of artistic director of the 10th Bamako Encounters: African Photography Biennale is an exciting challenge especially after a prolonged break of the biennale due to the upheaval caused by the threat to Mali’s sovereignty,” said Silva, during a chat before she was formally announced as the director. Silva noted that as the event makes its 10th anniversary, the theme Telling Time was well articulated. She explained that it highlights, “the past, articulating the present and imagining a possible future, in which time is less a result of a linear progression but one in which different temporalities can and at times do coalesce.”
Silva’s appoitment came just two years after she curated Marker, which featured artists and galleries from West Africa at the 2013 edition of Art Dubai in UAE. An independent curator and founder of the Centre for Contemporary Art, (CCA), Lagos, she selected five spaces to work collaboratively with their artists and produce exhibitions for Art Dubai event. The spaces included Centre for Contemporary Art (Lagos, Nigeria); Espace doual’art (Douala, Cameroon); Maison Carpe Diem (Segou, Mali); Nubuke Foundation (Accra, Ghana); and Raw Material Company (Dakar, Senegal). Working together with the curator and the fair, each artspace will present recent works by artists such as Soly Cisse (Senegal) Ablade Glover (Ghana), Abdoulaye Konate (Mali) Boris Nzebo (Cameroun) and Taiye Idahor (Nigeria).
“The forthcoming edition of the biennale marks the tenth anniversary of this important event,” said the Bamako biennale’s Executive Director, Samuel Sidibé. “We look forward to both working with Silva on the realisation of her exciting vision for the next biennale, and to the possibilities the event offers for future generations of African photographers.” Sidibé has been the Executive Director of the Bamako Encounters since 2009. He is also the Director of the National Museum of Mali, a position he has held since 1987.
On the curatorial contents, Silva’s view highlights theme of the 10th edition of the Bamako Encounters, which is titled Telling Time. She disclosed her plans: “Mali is an extraordinary country,” she explained. “Since my first visit to Bamako in 2001, the city has animated my understanding of photography’s vital role in exploring notions of time–be it from an aesthetic, political, or theoretical perspective. The Bamako Encounters is the most important platform for African photography and I am honoured by the opportunity to draw on the working relationships with artists and organisations in the city as well as from across the continent, that I have built over the years. I plan to develop a robust programme that highlights local practices, and situates them within continental and global contexts.”
Meanwhile, the Bamako Encounters 2015 has also announced its open call for applicants, which is scheduled to end on 31 March, 2015. The call for application is opened to the practices in photography, video, and film, with special attention to contemporary art and cultural histories in Africa. The organisers said event features a series of initiatives, focusing on a central theme, which is critically explored throughout the city.
As the locus of the biennale, the Panafrican exhibition results from a call for applications and the selection of artists representing all of the African continent and its diaspora.
Silva co-curated The Progress of Love, a transcontinental collaboration between the Menil Collection, Houston; Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, Missouri; and CCA, Lagos (2012-13), J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere: Moments of Beauty, Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki (2011); and the 2nd Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art, Greece; Praxis: Art in Times of Uncertainty (2009). She was one of the curators for the Dak’Art Biennale, Senegal (2006). A frequent participant in international conferences and symposia, Silva has published in journals and art magazines including Artforum, Third Text, The Exhibitionist, and ArtsouthAfrica. Most recently, she edited the comprehensive monograph, J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere published by CCA, Lagos (2014). Bisi Silva sits on the editorial/advisory boards of Art South Africa, N.Paradoxa: International Feminist Art Journal, and ContemporaryAnd. Silva was a member of the international jury for the Pinchuk Art Centre’s Future Generation Art Prize (2014), as well as the 55th Venice Biennale (2013).