Mali: Journey Across

Artists Yusupha Jawara and Sabera Bham met through a project called artxchange, which brought artists over from the UK to share skills with Gambian artists. Eddie Chambers tells how this first meeting, and the realisation that both had similar concerns in their work, led to collaboration.

Originally from Gambia, Yusupha Jawara has been travelling between the UK and Gambia since 1989. On one visit in 1999 he met Sabera Bham, whose contributions to the artxchange skill-sharing workshops involved working with photographers – exchanging skills and ideas and photographing Gambian artists a work. On the artists’ return to the UK ideas started sparking between them, ones that led to their eventual – and ongoing – collaboration. Both artists come from Islamic backgrounds, leading them to involved discussions about the relationships between visual arts and Islam. In Bham’s words, Mali was chosen because “the ‘On the Line’ Millennium Commission had funding for countries in the Greenwich meridian timeline. Mali struck us [as being an interesting African country on the timeline] to visit.”

… Bham and Jawara met local artists and religious practitioners to exchange ideas and to learn more about the this intricate and potentially controversial subject. They spent three weeks experiencing and documenting the cultural life of Bamako, large regional towns and remote villages.

…Within these photographs, the architectural landscape is dominated by structurally unique mosques, seen from a distance and close up; animist shrines hidden within caves or surrounded by rural landscape, and French imperialism and globalisation apparent through the language of consumerism and commercial advertising. These images chronicled not just a physical journey across Mali but one through the four influences and how contemporary Mali comprises a fusion of these elements.

The above extracts are from a review by Eddie Chambers of ‘Mali: Journey Across’ an exhibition by Yusupha Jawara and Sabera Bham, at the Create Centre, Bristol, 21-28 September 2001, [a-n] magazine, February 2002: 30