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The exhibition "Africa is not an island" offers a stroll through images, those that Afrique in Visu has been presenting for ten years on its platform. Taking care to account for the different views and practices on, around and from the African continent, Afrique in Visu thus becomes “a visual territory” going beyond the very question of borders.

The exhibition invites you to survey a tiny part of this connected territory, with 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 with photographs, plunge the viewer into a flow, that of the platform, that of current photographic practice in Africa. The visitor wanders in this visual territory which is neither fixed nor unique but very multiple.

A territory in kaleidoscope


Africa is not an island thus outlines a territory in kaleidoscope, also named " Alkebu-Lan, Katiopa, Farafina, Afuraka, TaMery, Kama... ", as listed by Léonora Miano in her intervention "  What is Africa the name of? » The author invites us to move away from this baptismal name to better reflect the multiplicity, to reconsider the diversity of an Africa which, in the absence of being renowned, is thinking of its (re)construction.


Articulated around three parts, the exhibition outlines a geography to be re-mapped: inhabitants, stories, places, raising questions relating to the body/time/space relationship throughout history. Namsa Leuba's human statuettes combine both fiction and reality; the sculptural compositions of Lebohang Kganye install the artist in a past/present pileup; the local and the global meet through the deserted wastelands of the photographs of François-Xavier Gbré.


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

to think as a “how to world” topic ?


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


"I am my representation", the first part of the exhibition, presents a human geography, the man-inhabitant. Representing oneself and representing the other in interaction with a territory. Through the photographic series exhibited, he sketches an “inhabitant” complex both 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 "Africa by itself, a century of African photography" in which the authors draw up, according to a look nourished by a history of Western art, a panorama of an African photograph emerging from the ashes of colonialism since the middle of the 20th century. "The African", if indeed he exists, is no longer this Other, this image constructed from the gaze of power, but many images as diverse as this territory can be, as complex as its history and geography are.

Jean-Loup Pivin bears witness to the genesis of photographers on the continent who, seizing on photographic technique, renewed it in the 1950s. When Malick Sidibé photographed Malian youth in the 1960s, he realized that he above all paints a portrait of his country. When Samuel Fosso, in the 1970s, plays with the photographic medium and stereotypes by dressing up as a businessman or lifeguard, he knows that he sweeps away the fantasy of exoticism with a gesture, but not without problematizing the issue of representation.

From this reappropriation of its representation arises the question of assimilation: how to be, to present oneself and to represent oneself by accepting the different tributes, those of History and tradition? The photographic works then reveal the continual negotiation between a confiscated, assimilated identity – that built through the years of colonialism – and a more ancestral cultural heritage. There is then no identity except that which thinks of itself as " production " in perpetual becoming, in work in progress.


Through testimony, the family archive and the words collected, the photographers reconstruct a past, a history of their territory. In the 1960s, studio practice showed how the portrait then went beyond the single use of the family album. By drawing the portrait of Malian society, Seydou Keïta, Malick Sidibé, collect faces, postures. Their portraits are all documents that contribute to the writing of a new Malian story.

These archives are often the only accessible documents from the past, thus raising the question of the constitution and preservation of so-called official, national archives in certain African countries. For photographers, it is a source of information for writing an embodied story 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 everyday life, of experience, as a new form of knowledge, testing the idea of universalism.

Mamadou Diouf evokes the important place of " the experience of daily life [which] (...) undermines the" civilizing mission ". This commits to rethinking a historicity to participate in particular in the questioning of one or more African modernities, of a universalism to perhaps "reconcile the kingdom of childhood". (Senghor) and “world-history (Hegel)”. »

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


The last part of the exhibition, “Drawing geographies”, invites us to connect territories, beyond official maps. Contemporary notions of globalization or even globality and the current challenges of cosmopolitanism are reshaping the representation of a territory. Drawing geographies, more like the geographers Al Idrissi or Elisée Reclus, who each in their time integrate into 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 intersections, 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 “All-World”, to conceptualize the interpenetration of cultures and imaginations. Connected territories generate new ramifications outside defined geographies and a certain established order. These interpenetrations have never ceased to exist. Achille Mbembé recalls that there is no knowledge conceived without the influence of each other: "There is no part of the world whose history does not conceal somewhere an African dimension, just as there is of African history than as an integral part of world history. ” In 2017, he invites to write “Africa-World”. He intends to speak in the name of an Africa; Africa as a whole for historical, cultural, economic and political reasons. There are no longer exteriors/interiors, there is no longer a center but centers. The new challenge is located at “the interstice of these exteriorities”. He invites us to reflect on new political models without the fetishization of borders since identity is, according to him, only fiction.

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