Bakary Emmanuel Daou - Mali / Mali

Musée National du Mali

Le temps Ebola (2014)

In this work, Emmanuel Bakary Daou assesses the Ebola epidemic that struck Guinea in 2014, spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone, reached Central Africa, and then, for the first time, affected civilian populations outside of the African continent. The artist’s parallel work as a photojournalist infuses the piece with a unique and subtle touch that renders it a hybrid of a surreal work of fiction and an earnest public health campaign. This campaign is evoked by photographs taken inside the confined and sanitized quarantine spaces, while the titles of the photographs recall the media slogans that were omnipresent during the epidemic, contributing further to the observer’s sense of disorientation.

The bio-hazard suit, which assumes the dual role of protection and disguise, helps create the fictional aspect. In effect, the exterior scenes are a stage for astonishing interactions between these disguised figures and the general population. Adding to this uncanny atmosphere, the health professionals’ masks resemble those worn during carnivals as well as animal totem masks. The suits thus induce an unnerving fear : Are these figures here to protect the people or to harm them ?

This strange, unsettling atmosphere provokes a sense of a threat even greater than that of the virus itself and summons up classic themes of science fiction, exemplified in one photograph in which three figures surround what appears to be a dead body covered by a plastic film. Through the use of vocabulary that belongs equally to the realms of photography, journalism, and science fiction, the series becomes a metaphor for our own vision of Ebola as it is shaped by fear, fantasy, and media manipulation.

Born in 1960 in San, Mali –
Lives in Bamako

Institut Français
Ministère de la Culture de l’Artisanat et du Tourisme du Mali