Focus on History at Rencontres de Bamako 2015

History appears to be in sharp focus at the ongoing African Photo Biennial in the Malian capital Bamako, where dozens of photographers, photographic enthusiasts and critics have gathered for the 10th edition of “Rencontres de Bamako”.

Pictures by African photographers spanning from the early 20th century have over the past decade or more featured in several photographic festivals with rejuvenated philosophical and ideological concepts.
On display at the District Museum in Bamako are black and white pictures by the late Nigerian photographer J.D Okhai Ojeikere that comprise well-expressed scrutiny of hair styles, fashion and architecture that chronicled the construction of several new buildings. 
With a dramatic use of light, he captures dozens of women with a myriad of hairstyles that have been meticulously fashioned out by master craftswomen who use their bare hands to create amazing designs that denote diverse messages on culture and tradition.
His photographs, which span a colossal period of six decades, equally capture headgears of varying shapes, colours and sizes. Indeed, subtle comments on political, social, cultural and economic transformation overshadow the generality of his work.
Also on show is a history of “Rencontres de Bamako”, which encompass catalogues, programmes, tags, bags, posters, banners and another paraphernalia, which has characterized the festival over the past twenty years. 
Images in the various catalogues reveal a myriad of events that have plagued mankind over the past twenty years – wars, floods, droughts, environmental pollution, religion, social upheavals, democracy, politics, economic successes and failures among others. Ministry Culture in Mali organized the biennial in collaboration with the French Embassy in Bamako and the Institut Français in Mali. It ends of Thursday December 31.

By John Owoo (Ghana)

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