MACAAL's Africa is No Island

12 April 2018

Presenting around forty emerging and established photographers working from a distinctly African perspective, The Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL) and Afrique in Visu’s exhibition Africa is No Island is a must see. 


Africa is No Island breaks down two important themes when it comes to photography and photographers in Africa. Most obviously, the continual stereotypes often presented in photographs taken in Africa and shown on other continents. Secondly, the exhibition steps away from the photographers often immediately thought of such as Malick Sidibe and Seydou Keïta. As fantastic as these photographers are, and as brilliant as they have been in breaking down certain stereotypes, there is so much more going on that needs to be shown. This variety was achieved by MACAAL by inviting Afrique en Visu to take on the exhibition shown at it’s international opening during 1-54 Marrakech. Afrique en Visu is an online platform that was started in 2006 in order to provide a structure for the vast array of photography taking place in Africa. It is a platform of exchange for photographers, journalists and critics from across the world. This refreshing exhibition was separated into three broad themes; ‘I am my own Representation,’ ‘Drawing Borders’ and ‘Transcribing History.’ The themes dealt with issues regarding African art and photographers, but demonstrated the multiple ways these themes have been experienced and considered in photography. As a result the exhibition presented how the continent is not, should not and cannot be a single entity. Importantly, the stress on ‘African perspective’ by Afrique in Visu, also avoided the trap of attempting to define ‘African photography’ or what an ‘African photographer’ is. 


Although the exhibition is continent wide it also makes specific recognition to its location, Marrakech, through its presentation. The large rooms of MACAAL are broken up in order to pay homage to the maze of the medina and its small spaces and corridors. Hicham Gardaf’s The Red Square series (2014-2017) is presented on freestanding walls in the middle of the central room, Anaya Jackson’s photograph, Sarah Forbes (2016), is in a hole in the wall that can only fully be viewed by climbing some steps and Leila Alaoui’s piece Khamlia, Sud du Marco #1 (2014) is also in a small space of it’s own with the sound of Jamaa Al Fna coming through small speakers in the opening to the space.  


The exhibition is wonderful in its own right, but is also evidence of how exhibitions can move beyond standard and established presentations of work with an African perspective.