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Bamako: Mohamed Camara and Mats Hjelm

Galleri Flach+Thulin is pleased to present the exhibition Bamako: Mats Hjelm and Mohamed Camara.

Bamako, the capital of Mali is renowned for its fantastic music scene. We rarely hear about contemporary art and photography, even though it is here that Africa’s largest photography- and videobiennale is arranged every other year: Les Rencontres Africaines de la photographie. Here we are given an unsurpassed opportunity to get acquainted with artists and photographers from the whole African continent and to get an insight in a rich and comprehensive image world that is rarely seen in Northern Europe.

The exhibition Bamako with works by Mats Hjelm from Sweden and Mohamed Camara from Mali is partly the result of meetings that can emerge in relation to this type of manifestation. In the purpose of establishing contact between Swedish and Malien artists, Mats Hjelm travelled to Mali in the beginning of November, together with Annica Karlsson Rixon and Jessica Faiss. Mohamed Camara, born and raised in Bamako, partly lives in Paris and Bamako, was one of many participants in the Biennale.

 

In his photography Mohamed Camara depicts his home environment with a strong sense of intimacy. The viewer meets rooms and situations, taken from the inside, in a family atmosphere and situation. Titles such as “Certain matins, je commence ma journée à la fenêtre” (Some mornings, I begin the day at my window) or “Certains matins, ma cousine me fait des trucs que je ne comprends pas” (Some mornings, my cousin does strange things that I don’t understand) reinforce the impression of photographs that have emerged in a very close contact between Camara and his world of motives. In many pictures only a door or a window opening through which a strong light emerges is seen, sometimes concealed behind a drape. The photographs invite the viewers to an intimate situation that both enhance a sense of a chance moment and of being meticulously, almost scenographically, arranged.

 

Mats Hjelm’s installation Men at Work sees everyday life in Bamako from a different perspective. Since many years engaged in political and social processes with links to the United States and the Afro-American community, as for instance depicted in the film Black Nation that recently appeared on Swedish Television, Mats Hjelm has an obvious interest in meeting people in their everyday life of the west African continent. In the images now presented we meet craftsmen from an industrial area at the outskirts of Bamako. It is a masculine environment that is busy from morning until night. It is a situation that is very much different from the world Hjelm presents in the film Black Nation, where the starting point is a black congregation in downtown Detroit, and that also aim for a male black identity. But if hopelessness and passivity is the overriding theme of the film, the images in the exhibition display an everyday trot within a system and a structure that create security and stability, despite poor material living conditions.

 

The meeting between Mats Hjelm and Mohamed Camara is two stories with different perspectives, different artistic strategies and two completely different references to the site, Bamako. Here aesthetic considerations and strategies are put up against the documentary quality of photography in a way that challenges the viewer’s interpretations and opinions.

 

Mats Hjelm was born 1959. He lives and works in Stockholm. He is currently in the exhibition “After Hours” together with choreographer Dorte Olesen, produced by MAP in collaboration with Moderna Dansteatern.

Exhibitions in selection: Göteborgs internationella konstbiennal, Gothenburg (2009, 2007), Brändstrom & Stene Gallery, Stockholm (2007), Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2006), National Center for Contemporary Art, Moskow ((2005), Vox/Historiska Museet, Stockholm (2005), Galerie Im taxipalais, Insbruck (2003), BildMuseet, Umeå (2003), Dunkers Kulturhus, Helsingborg (2003) and others.

Mohamed Camara was born 1985. He lives and works in Paris and Bamako.

Exhibitions in selection: The New Normal, Canzani Center Gallery, Columbia, USA (2009), Recontres Photographiques de Bamako, Bamako, Mali (2009, 2007), ICP, New York (2006), Galerie Pierre Brullé, Paris, France (2006), Espace Electra, Paris (2006), FACT, Liverpool (2005), Tate Modern, London (2004), Barcelona CCCB (2004), Lieu Unique, Nantes (2004) and others.

 

The exhibition Bamako: Mats Hjelm and Mohamed Camaro is a part of a series of exhibitions within the project IN FOCUS/Contemporary African art and photography, an art-project initiated by Dorothea Flodin (Fotografins hus) and Eva-Lotta Flach (Galleri Flach+Thulin) in close collaboration with Matilda Wallin. The intention is to create a platform for collaborations between artists and curators in the Nordic region and Africa.

In 2009 the following exhibitions and seminars have occured within this project:

In Camera by Kathryn Smith: 27 mars – 6 april 2009, Fotografins Hus

Monography by Samuel Fosso: 24 oktober – 29 november 2009, Fotografins Hus

Le Potrait , workshop by Annica Karlsson Rixon in collaboration with Association Femmes Photographes du Mali, Bamako, nov 2009

Videopresentation by Jessica Faiss, FAIVA, Musée National and Centre Soleil D’Afrique, Bamako, november 2009Black Nation, a film by Mats Hjelm, Centre Culturel Français, Bamako and Centre Soleil d’Afrique, Bamako, november. 2009