EDITION 2021


For the 13th edition of the Bamako Encounters – African Biennale of Photography, on view at various venues in Bamako, Mali from 20 November 2021–20 January 2022, the overarching focus lies On Multiplicity, Difference, Becoming, and Heritage.
The dominant narrative in this ‘globalized world’ is, incidentally, that of singularity–of universalism, of single identities, of singular cultures, of insular political systems. With this narrative, however, comes an illusory sense of stability and stasis; identities seem inalterable, cultures are immutable, political systems prove uneasy in the face of change. Thus, in sustaining this pervasive discourse, there has been a great loss of multiplicity, of fragmentation, of process and change, and not least of complex notions of humanity and equally complex narratives.

In de-centering this year’s Biennale On Multiplicity, Difference, Becoming, and Heritage, General Director Cheick Diallo, Artistic Director Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, and the curatorial team — Akinbode Akinbiyi (artist and independent curator), Meriem Berrada (artistic director of MACAAL, Marrakech), Tandazani Dhlakama (assistant curator Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town), and Liz Ikiriko (artist, assistant curator Art Gallery York University) — of the Bamako Encounters pay a powerful tribute to the spaces in between, to that which defies definition, to phases of transition, to being this and that or neither and both, to becoming, and to difference and divergence in all their shades. Accordingly, Amadou Hampâté Bâ’s statement (Aspects de la civilisation africaine. Éditions Présence Africaine. 1972) presiding over the manifestation, Maa ka Maaya ka ca a yere kono, translates to, “The persons of the person are multiple in the person.”
A key tool for negotiating the processual and shifting nature of multiplicity lies in storytelling. It is the central medium through which humanity points the lens on itself and launches an attempt at self-understanding and reflection, and the breadth of answers given throughout history testifies to the congenial nature of storytelling and multiplicity. Moreover, the stories we tell not only negotiate who we are but also expose underlying currents of who we will become in the future. This is the concern lying at the heart of the 13th edition of the Bamako Encounters–the stories we tell, the multiple facets of humanity we accommodate, notions of processuality, Becoming in Being, embracing identities that are layered, fragmented, and divergent, and the multifarious ways of being in the world, whether enacted or imagined. It should be emphasized that this does not apply only to questions of personal identity. On the contrary, it is a bold affirmation of transformation and transition, of becoming in an emphatic sense, and is thus equally significant for state politics. It also rings true for questions of heritage/patrimony. Embracing the kaleidoscopic legacy of our multiple heritages means to open them up and liberate the term from its etymological roots (the Latin patrimonium means “the heritage of the father”), imagining in its place an inclusive concept of matrimony.

Thus, in this 13th edition of the Bamako Encounters with the title Maa ka Maaya ka ca a yere kono, artists, curators, scholars, activists, and people of all walks of life are invited to reflect collectively on these multiplicities of being and differences, on expanding beyond the notion of a single being, and on embracing compound, layered and fragmented identities as much as layered, complex, non-linear understandings of space(s) and time(s).

Curatorial Team

Dr Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung

Dr. Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung (born in 1977 in Yaoundé, Cameroon), is an independent curator, author and biotechnologist. He is founder and artistic director of SAVVY Contemporary in Berlin and the artistic director of sonsbeek20–24, a quadrennial contemporary art exhibition in Arnhem, the Netherlands. Ndikung was the curator-at-large for Documenta 14 in Athens, Greece and Kassel, Germany in 2017; a guest curator of the Dak’Art biennale in Dakar, Senegal, in …

Liz Ikiriko

Liz Ikiriko is a Tkaronto/Toronto-based, Nigerian Canadian artist and curator. Her role as an educator, maker, and mother informs her practice, which focuses on African and diasporic narratives. Through collaboration and research, she supports and creates embodied experiences to facilitate moments of vulnerability and care for her communities. Her projects and curiosities engage, question and confront internalized systems of oppression. Ikiriko holds an MFA in Criticism and Curatorial Practice from …

Tandazani Dhlakama

Tandazani Dhlakama is an assistant curator at Zeitz MOCAA. Prior joining Zeitz MOCAA, she worked at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ) in Harare where she held various roles between 2011 and 2017. In 2017 she was the conference coordinator for the 2nd International Conference on African Cultures (ICAC 2017) which took place in Harare. She recently curated Witness: Afro Perspectives from the Jorge M. Pérez Collection at El Espacio 23 …

Meriem Berrada

Artistic Director of the Al Maaden Museum of Contemporary African Art (MACAAL) and Director of Cultural Projects at the Alliances Foundation, Meriem Berrada designs and implements the various artistic projects of Fondation Alliances since 2012. In 2013, she created, La Chambre Claire a photo contest dedicated to promoting African emerging photography and in 2014, the Passerelles program, a cross-sponsorship initiative that coordinates the cultural and social poles of Fondation Alliances …

Akinbode Akinbiyi

Born in Oxford, England of Nigerian parents, Akinbode Akinbiyi has been a freelance photographer since 1977, a curator and writer based in Berlin. His primary photographic focus is large, sprawling megacities. Wandering and meandering the highways and byways in an attempt to understand and deeply engage with the modern metropolis. He walks and works primarily in and on the four major African cities Lagos, Cairo, Kinshasa and Johannesburg, but also …