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The exhibition "Africa is no island" proposes a wandering through images, those that Afrique in Visu has presented for ten years on its platform. Taking care to give an account of the different views and practices on, around and from the African continent, Afrique in Visu thus becomes a "visual territory" that goes beyond the very question of borders.


The exhibition invites visitors to survey a tiny part of this connected territory, with a focus on photographic works published on Afrique in Visu, in dialogue with a selection of works from the Zinsou collection. Wallpapers, all over covering the walls of photographs, immerse the viewer in a flow, that of the platform, that of the current photographic practice in Africa. The visitor wanders in this visual territory that is neither fixed nor unique but multiple.

A kaleidoscopic territory


Africa is not an island thus sketches a kaleidoscope territory, also called "Alkebu-Lan, Katiopa, Farafina, Afuraka, TaMery, Kama ...", as Leonora Miano enumerates in her intervention "What is Africa called? The author invites us to move away from this baptismal name to better account for the multiplicity, reconsider the diversity of an Africa that, failing to be renowned, thinks its (re)construction.


Structured around three sections, the exhibition sketches out a geography to be re-mapped: inhabitants, histories, places, raising questions about the relationship between body, time and space throughout history. Namsa Leuba's human statuettes mix fiction and reality; Lebohang Kganye's sculptural compositions place the artist in a past/present pile-up; the local and the global meet through the deserted wastelands of François-Xavier Gbré's photographs.


The different photographic series presented in the exhibition Africa is not an island embody the notions of space/time, personalize a history, experiment with a geography

to think as a subject "How to make world"?


Jeanne Mercier, Baptiste de Ville d'Avray and Madeleine de Colnet.


"I am my own representation", the first part of the exhibition, presents a human geography, the man-inhabitant. Representing himself and the other in interaction with a territory. Through the photographic series exhibited, he sketches a complex "inhabitant" at the same time nourished by an ancestral and colonial history. He questions the belonging of a body to a community, its inscription in a History - that of a territory as well as that of its representation -, in a geography, its resonances with traditions and its renewal.

The title of this section refers to the book L'Afrique par elle-même, un siècle de photographie africaine (Africa by itself, a century of African photography), in which the authors draw up a panorama of an African photography born from the ashes of colonialism since the middle of the 20th century, with a view that is nourished by a Western art history. The "African", if he exists at all, is no longer this Other, this image constructed from the gaze of power, but rather images as diverse as this territory can be, as complex as its history and geography are.

Jean-Loup Pivin testifies to the genesis of photographers on the continent who, seizing the photographic technique, renewed it in the 1950s. When Malick Sidibé photographed Malian youth in the 1960s, he became aware that he was drawing a portrait of his country. When Samuel Fosso, in the 1970s, played with the photographic medium and stereotypes by dressing up as a businessman or a lifeguard, he knew that he was sweeping away the fantasy of exoticism with a gesture, but not without problematizing the question of representation.

From this reappropriation of his representation arises the question of assimilation: how to be, present and represent oneself while accepting the different tributes, those of history and tradition? The photographic works reveal the continuous negotiation between a confiscated, assimilated identity - the one built through the years of colonialism - and a more ancestral cultural heritage. There is then no identity other than that which is thought of as "production" in perpetual becoming, in work in progress.


Through the testimony, the family archive and the collected word, the photographers reconstruct a past, a history of their territory. In the 1960s, the studio practice shows how the portrait then goes beyond the sole use of the family album. By drawing a portrait of Malian society, Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé collected faces and postures. Their portraits are documents that participate in the writing of a new Malian narrative.

These archives are often the only accessible documents of the past, thus raising the question of the constitution and preservation of so-called official, national archives in certain African countries. For the photographers, it is a source of information for the writing of an embodied history where temporality is sometimes jostled, replayed. How does the everyday, the vernacular, the particular, participate in the recomposition of a historical narrative? They reposition the word of the everyday, the lived, as a new form of knowledge, putting to the test the idea of universalism.

Mamadou Diouf evokes the important place of "the experience of daily life [which] (...) challenges the "civilizing mission". This one engages to rethink a historicity to take part notably in the questionings of one or several African modernities, of a universalism to perhaps "reconcile the kingdom of childhood" (Senghor) and "the history-world (Hegel)".

The writing of a history of a territory is subject to discussion in countries where colonial periods disturb the idea of a linear narrative. The Chicana theorist Gloria Anzaldua, a participant in decolonial thought in particular, erects the concept of "autohistoria-teoria". She considers all words as possible resources of a new knowledge to put in dialogue with a theoretical discourse. The imaginary, fiction, and the fallibility of memory are thus called upon to reconfigure History in the same way as research.


The last part of the exhibition, "Drawing Geographies", invites us to connect territories, beyond official cartographies. The contemporary notions of globalization or even globality and the current issues of cosmopolitanism reshape the representation of a territory. Drawing geographies, more like the geographers Al Idrissi or Elisée Reclus, who each in their time integrate in their description of the known world elements from various fields of knowledge, confluences and influences. A moving geography according to the movements, connections and circulations of people and ideas. A transversal and non-linear world, no longer perceived as a place but as a projection support animated by crossings, differences and similarities. The twist is danced as much in Malian parties (Malick Sidibé, Danser le twist, 1965) as in the United States or in Europe; Hip-Hop societies merge with each other.

In 1997, Edouard Glissant created a neologism, the "Tout-Monde", to conceptualize the interpenetration of cultures and imaginaries. Connected territories generate new ramifications outside of defined geographies and a certain established order. These interpenetrations have never ceased to exist. Achille Mbembé reminds us that there is no knowledge conceived without the influence of one another: "There is no part of the world whose history does not somewhere harbor an African dimension just as there is no African history except as an integral part of world history." In 2017, he invites to write "Africa-World". He intends to speak for an Africa; Africa as a whole for historical, cultural, economic and political reasons. There are no longer outsiders/internals, there is no longer a center but centers. The new challenge is located in the "interstice of these externalities". He invites us to reflect on new political models without fetishizing borders since identity is, according to him, only fiction.

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