article added
Proceed to checkout



British curator and culture historian, Mark Sealy, has put together a photo book titled African Cosmologies: Photography, Time and the Other, where he has attempted to offer an overview of original African photography. The publication will serve as a catalogue for the FotoFest Biennial 2020 in Houston. Together with the Managing Director, Steven Evans, and Max Fields, Deputy Curator and Director of Publications FotoFest Biennial, Sealy worked his way through the inventory of African photography. He spoke with us about the concept behind African Cosmologies: Photography, Time and the Other, the selection process, and his wishes concerning the imagery coming out of the enormous continent.

LFI: Africa is a continent with a diverse cultural scene. Please tell us about the concept behind “African Cosmologies“.
Mark Sealy: This project is representative of a 30 year journey through ideas around history, time and place. It is not representative of any person or of any one place. It’s about multiplicity. It’s about recognition, diversity, and the entangled histories of our complex present. There is, of course, a healthy African photographic tradition which, until fairly recently, was simply ignored – which doesn’t mean it wasn’t there.

Artists such as Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Samuel Fosso, Zanele Muholi and Akinbode Akinbiyi, among many others, have fought long and hard to be recognized, to have a voice, and now, when we clean up the house of history a little, we can clearly see that the influence of African visual culture goes way beyond the confines of imposed Eurocentric boarders and knowledge systems. It’s an invitation to keep on thinking and delinking.

What photographers did you want to focus on and why?
Much of the discourse around the history of photography has been preoccupied with defining the photographic canon, and considering the photograph in relation to the history of art. This has lead to the construction and presentation of a populist history of photography that is dominated by Western photographers. It is important to also look at photography in terms of time, space, and distance, and the work that a photograph does for culture, politics, and history. This is at the heart of how I have been thinking for a long time. It’s not about selection, it’s about dialogue. I am only interested in the work photographs do for culture. The question is not about selection, it’s about meaning. The question to ask is what’s the work doing at this time. This is my curatorial mantra.

What do you wish for the medium of photography in Africa and for African photographers?
I think the image of Africa is being redefined by African and diasporic photographers, into something much more useful and much more powerful. This, in turn, influences how others work on or around the continent. We owe a lot to artists such as Santu Mofokeng, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Aida Silvestri and Monica de Moranda, as they help us delink from the violence of colonial thought, understand the past, and offer new meaning to our present. They are, quite simply, bright lights that help us navigate towards a better understanding. We do well to look up to them. (ce)

Mark Sealy, Stevan Evans, Max Fields (ed): African Cosmologies: Photography, Time and the Other. Hardback with two colour foil stamping and coloured cutting edges, format: 17 x 24.2 cm. 296 pages with 218 photos and illustrations in b&w and full colour. The book was published in conjunction with FotoFest. Schilt Publishing
© Steve Pyke

Mark Sealy

Born in London in 1960, Mark Sealy was appointed Director of Autograph ABP (Association of Black Photographers), in 1991. His PhD is from Durham University, UK, where his research focused on photography and cultural violence. He has curated several major internationally acclaimed exhibitions, and has many publications. In 2019 he was the recipient of the Royal Photographic Society's Award for Outstanding Services to Photography. In 2020 he was guest curator for FotoFest Biennial 2020 in Houston Texas USA.
Share this page:
via mail Mail
on facebook