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Dakar Biennale Postponed to November 2024 due to unstable political landscape

Senegal, still recovering from a tumultuous political period, has announced the postponement of the 15th African Contemporary Art Biennale. Originally slated for a May 16th kickoff, the prestigious event will now run from November 7th to December 7th.

El Hadji Sy, 'Now/Naaw', 2022, installation view. Courtesy: Selebe Yoon, Dakar
El Hadji Sy, 'Now/Naaw', 2022, installation view. Courtesy: Selebe Yoon, Dakar

The Ministry of Culture attributed the delay to a desire to "organize the Biennale in optimal conditions, commensurate with its scale and reputation as a historic event for international art enthusiasts."

Curated by Salimata Diop, a renowned curator and art critic, the Biennale is expected to showcase works by over 60 artists from Africa and its diaspora. Among the confirmed participants are Franco-Algerian artist Adel Abdessemed, Senegalese visual artist Mohamed Diop, Ivorian artist Pascal Konan, and South Africa's Skumbuzo Vabaza. Titled "The Wake," the theme sets the stage for artistic discourse on humanity's awakening to critical social and environmental challenges.

Senegal's political landscape witnessed significant upheaval in February when former president Macky Sall's indefinite election postponement triggered a constitutional crisis. Disruptive street protests and international pressure ultimately led to elections on March 24th, with Bassirou Diomaye Faye emerging as the clear victor and being sworn in earlier this month. However, the disruption and uncertainty caused by Sall's actions are believed to have significantly impacted planning for major events like the Biennale.

For artists who had meticulously planned their participation around the May dates, the postponement presents a logistical headache. Tight schedules and pre-arranged residencies may clash with November's new timeframe, potentially leading to last-minute shuffles or even cancellations. International visitors, too, may struggle to reschedule trips, leading to a potential drop in attendance – a significant blow for an event that thrives on global exchange.

The organizers face their own challenges. Rescheduling a large-scale event necessitates adjustments across the board, from securing venues and shipping artworks to revamping marketing campaigns to reach audiences now aware of the November dates. Maintaining momentum and ensuring a smooth transition will be crucial.

The coming months will be a test for the biennale. Clear communication and a well-executed transition plan will be essential to ensure the artistic community rallies behind the new dates. Yet, if handled adroitly, this delay could pave the way for an even stronger, more impactful biennale in Senegal come November.


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Dakar Biennale Postponed to November 2024 due to unstable political landscape

April 27, 2024

Obidike Okafor

2 min read

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