To Say, to See and to Photograph

Eva Barois De Caevel


Writing a "decolonial" history of art
The research project led by Bärbel Küster and Clara Pacquet took on the challenge of examining Malian and Senegalese photography from the 20th and 21st centuries through the prism of orality, based on an intercontinental dialogue between Mali, Senegal and Germany. When Küster and Pacquet invited me to respond freely to their research – which comprises a substantial collection of oral testimonies (including video interviews and transcriptions), texts and visual material (mostly photographs) – I began by defining how I would interpret the terms orality and dialogue.

I decided to consider orality as being what is said at the moment photographs are created and at the moment of their reception, as well as what is said when artists subsequently discuss their work (for the purpose of communication and promotion), in the sense that this discourse forms part of what I call the rumour of reception. I also chose to limit the notion of dialogue to the verbal, textual and visual exchanges that flow back and forth between continents, back and forth within the postcolony and, in this case, between European countries. What interests me in this particular dialogue is to explore its implicit forms of conditioning – tied to the legacy of History, the persistence of delocalized reception and the fixity of the structures and mechanisms of legitimation – that confront artists in non-Western societies.

By choosing to lend an ear to what is said – primarily drawing on my own experience – and to critique the preconceptions that accompany the notion of dialogue through the question of the possibilities for representing oneself and one’s contemporaries for a Malian or a Senegalese artist-photographer who is, himself or herself, contemporary, I see this as a continuation of a research project I started in 2013. This project was initially based on a reflection on the self-integration of Western socio-political injunctions relating to gender, sexuality and feminism in contemporary works by artists from the Maghreb countries of Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria (and their diaspora), and South Africa.[1] More recently, I have begun focusing more directly on the processes of legitimation for artists in non-Western societies, notably in relation to the purely "cosmetic" form this can take, and what it reveals to us.[2]

In previous articles, essays and lectures, I have frequently quoted Victor Segalen and Thomas McEvilley. Both Segalen and McEvilley studied and criticized Western modes of interpreting and consuming exoticism – the non-Western – in the cultural sphere. Both described how the apparent valorization of difference can be tantamount to negating it.[3] McEvilley, closer to us in time, examined the way in which postmodern ideologies created, valued and made desirable the notion of openness in the exhibition space – this openness reflected the newfound possibility of allowing the Other to enter the exhibition space, while assuming to place him or her on an equal footing. However, this increasing drive for openness can be seen, above all, to have created the illusion of a conceptual shift, without this shift actually taking place. The desire to accept and honour difference is not enough to allow for the possibility of genuine relativity on a psychological and political level, and is not the same as accepting the existence of radically different, and perhaps initially incomprehensible, epistemologies.

This sense of witnessing a defeat when contemplating the victory of the illusion of openness – this pseudo-positive achievement – strikes a chord with me. It matches up with what I observed in France during my university studies in art history. It also matches up with what I was subsequently confronted with when I decided to focus on the study of contemporary African art, and in my work as a curator benefiting from this surge of interest: a general attitude of optimism, or critical discourses that almost always analyze the "not enough" and never the question of "how", only considering quantitative, never qualitative, factors in discussions of how this process of openness occurs.

The unsaid of progress
If we take a critical look at the way in which art history is written in the West – as postcolonial studies invite us to do – it quickly becomes apparent that within this history, the only viable alternative for any artistic artefact is to participate in some form of progress. This progress can exist on various levels – technological progress, dialectical progress (in which works engage in an internal dialogue within Western art history and "surpass" the original premise, therefore progressively advancing beyond preceding works), and so on. Consequently, it seems to me that what primarily interests the West in contemporary African art, even today, is the identification of signs of progress. This entails demonstrating that African artists are capable of producing contemporary works and presenting their work using language and graphic imagery that satisfy the criteria of the prevailing authorities of legitimation – in short, that they are resolutely acceptable. This unsaid of progress strikes me as highly disturbing; it goes hand in hand with a certain Afro-optimism that I see as harmful and paralyzing. It distorts the very meaning of the experience of difference, which I evoked earlier: not as something I do not understand, which is entirely Other to me but which I nonetheless accept, but as something that increasingly resembles me and whose degree of authorized Otherness I determine and control. While it is true that the 21st century in the West has acknowledged the coexistence of multiple "moderns" and that the history, or rather histories, of art can be local, the notion of progress has dominated the European tradition for so long that it is difficult to break free from its consequences. It would therefore seem that the Western unsaid of progress continues to hold the postcolony under its domination. And it undoubtedly continues to produce artists whose work’s contemporaneity is expected to comply with a definition of what can be considered as contemporary that is dictated by the dominant authorities.

The American art historian Zoe S. Strother, a specialist in the art of the Congo, argues that a clear line should be drawn between, on one side, an interest in and knowledge of African art and, on the other side, a genuine integration, on a structural level, of this art’s irreducible difference. This difference is structural because it is linked to a belief system that operates within a model of political and economic dominance. In 1998, Strother published Inventing Masks, a study of the Pende people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In this book, she explains that the way in which Western art history, in the past and still today, has comprehended, analyzed and written about African art remains problematic insofar as it is incapable of dispelling not only the notion of progress from its interpretation of African art, but, especially, its very conception of the notion of progress on an epistemological level. The Western art historian is incapable of seeing where this notion is situated in the psyche and socio-artistic structures of non-Western societies, and, therefore, in what they produce. This is because Western history of African art has been based from the outset on an opposition between tradition and modernity. The same can be said of the history of Western art in general – modernism was radically constructed around this conception, or, one might say, this fantasy. The masked dances studied by Strother are artistic performances that rely on a dialogue with the audience that is pushed to its limits. The mask must reinvent itself in order to survive: otherwise, it will lose its attraction for future generations. It is thus our very definition of creativity (and of progress in the artistic process) that needs to be revised. What I referred to earlier as the "rumour of reception" merges with this unsaid of progress; or, to put it another way, the unsaid of progress is a notion that is channelled and perpetuated by the current dominant rumour – in the context of African art, in the globalized cultural sphere. 

Omar Victor Diop: Portraitist of Afro-Optimism
The following paragraphs provide an overview of the way in which I personally believe we should consider and present some of the material gathered for the "Photography and Orality" project. I have chosen the work of the Senegalese artist Omar Victor Diop to serve as a focus for the remainder of this text. The main reason for my choice is that Diop’s work benefits from a wide and dynamic circulation in contexts and distribution channels that cross paths with my own work, providing me with a large amount of first-hand oral material to draw on. For example, I have heard visitors discussing Diop’s work at art fairs, taken part in discussions with Afropeans on the merit of his work, heard the artist speak about his work and met a number of the subjects of his portraits.


In March 2013, one of Omar Victor Diop’s portraits from his series The Studio of Vanities appeared on the cover of Courrier International with the title Africa 3.0 – Les Africains racontent la nouvelle dynamique du continent. [Africa 3.0 – Africans talk about the new dynamics of the continent]. The young man in the photograph is Manden L’Original, a rapper and blogger from Dakar. I bought this issue of the magazine, and glanced through it at the time. This magazine was a perfect demonstration of Afro-optimism, and I must say that it added to my excitement about my upcoming move to Dakar six months later.

Omar Victor Diop has enjoyed growing international success since the 2011 Bamako Photography Encounters, where he showed his series The Future of Beauty. His work has been widely exhibited in Africa, Europe and the United States. Diop is represented by the Parisian gallery Magnin-A and his photographs regularly feature in both the artistic and mainstream press, and at times serve as illustrations for essays on contemporary African art. His work has come to represent the image of a certain aspect of contemporary Africa – and of a certain way of presenting it – and symbolizes the recent popular internationalization of the reception of contemporary art produced in Africa.

During the interviews conducted for the "Photography and Orality" project, Diop talks about a new era for artists in Dakar (and perhaps, more generally, for Senegalese and African artists) brought about by the recent expansion of the internet and its utilization in the culture sector. In his view, this new era primarily opens up the possibility for artists to bypass locally-based foreign authorities of legitimation (in the case of Dakar, chiefly European cultural institutes) for the first time since they were created in the postcolonial period. Furthermore, he describes the feeling of freedom brought by the proliferation of new spheres which artists can "tap into", and through which they can achieve recognition – we can also imagine the impact of the digitization of these spheres, in practical and economic terms, once artists can gain "exposure" for their work online, therefore reaching a far wider audience and potentially gaining international success far more quickly. Diop also points to a shift in ways of showing visual interest in Africa: we can observe the dissipation of certain automatic responses, such as the tendency to show miserabilist images that are confined to a photojournalistic approach and/or an Afro-pessimist viewpoint. According to Diop, this change in perspective also reflects a desire for a "readjustment of perceptions of the continent" on the part of African artists themselves (through what they are and what they produce as representations). He also notes, with humour, a greater accuracy in Westerners’ identification of African people: we have progressed from a vision of Africans as "black people" – be that African-Americans, Africans or Afropeans – to an awareness of their geographic and cultural differences and a greater differentiation in what an African person can be. Indeed, what common points are there between a Tunisian, a Malian and a white South-African? 

Furthermore, Diop raises the subject of his work’s dual affiliation with a history of art that is at once local and Western, and international. In his case, this is linked to his easy access, as an urban African in the 21st century, to international art production of the past and present, and to his personal history, since he studied in France and worked for an international corporation prior to settling in Dakar, a home base from which he nowadays frequently travels to promote his work. And finally, without a hint of pretension, he explains his view that the positive reception of his work (and that of artists in general) is the result of a conscious exercise in communication and the need to offer what he describes as a "product that must be good" – a term that perhaps harks back to his background as a commercial analyst.

Questions of legitimacy
Authorities of legitimation are sites (or organizations without a physical structure) based in geographic areas that benefit art, wherever that art is produced. The regions with the greatest concentration of these authorities (art schools, museums, state-run institutions, foundations, university research departments, art buyers, collectors, galleries, auction houses, critics, the media, and so forth) are, for structural reasons, the "victor" countries, the motors of the Capitalocene.[4] These all-powerful authorities of legitimation become obligatory points of passage for everything that is produced, even if it is produced very far away: they attribute value and create demand. These dominant authorities create a context – an interconnected network of phenomena – that interferes with potential local sources of legitimacy, as well as with points of anchorage and possibilities for cultural transmission in the places where artists live and produce their work. Contemporary African artists often have no choice but to submit to a form of extradition: the necessity, at some point, of relying on the support of these dominant authorities in order to make a profit on what they produce. This may take the form of several years of study abroad, participating in exhibitions held at Western institutions, or perhaps having their work presented at cultural events, which, if held on the African continent, must adequately comply with the canons established by the dominant authorities and must be managed, organized or financed by at least some of the representatives of these authorities. 

In light of this, I doubt very much that the internet has relegated this problem to the past. The internet has greatly increased interaction between artists (wherever they live and work across the globe) and the dominant authorities of legitimation and their offshore avatars. When Diop speaks of the freedom of the artist, we understand that he is referring, on one side, to the expanding field of aesthetic possibilities and, on the other, to the idea that artists are no longer hemmed in by economic restrictions, since success can now be achieved more rapidly and can take multiple forms. Yet, even if, in many spheres, the rumour which the development of the internet has allowed us to hear has enabled a multitude of so-called minority voices to exist, it has also allowed us to read, hear and see the dominant voices on an even more massive scale than they could ever have hoped for. I therefore believe that this rumour plays a greater role in providing a model for what must be done, for what will sell and what they do over there than it does in liberating non-Western artists.

In cases when the West’s newfound interest in contemporary African artists has been called into question, attention has notably focused on the definition used to justify the term "African artist" and its validity. In articles and essays on this topic – of which there are many – the following conclusion is almost always reached: What is most important is for African artists to gain a stronger presence and greater recognition in the international art scene and that this brings them fulfilment as artists, given that all artists, regardless of their nationality, aspire for their work to be at the centre of international debates. It remains to be considered how the dominant authorities of legitimation allow artists to take part in these discussions, since the conditions in which their voices are heard and the time they are afforded is clearly not the same for all.

A new viewpoint?
Diop describes the end of the miserabilist view of Africa as a key achievement of recent years. It is this achievement, he explains, that has enabled him to earn success as a photographer, particularly as a portraitist whose subjects are young Africans who are considered dynamic and attractive by the Western rumour, which presents them as models of professional and economic success. In this way, the (more or less real) professional and economic success of the photographer and his subjects – according to Western capitalist criteria – heightens the appeal of his work to Western eyes. Afro-optimism is thus driven by a desire, not for knowledge (of the Other), but for recognition (of the self). Of course, we can only hope to see a change in Western attitudes in this regard, and to see more and more varied representations of Africans, which are not restricted to images of violence, war, poverty and famine. And we can only welcome the fact that this change in perspective has given artists an opportunity to achieve recognition by exploring subjects of their own choice, and that the portraiture work by Omar Victor Diop, for example, has benefited some of his subjects, as is the case for the stylist Selly Raby Kane. However, here again, it would seem important to consider what has replaced this dominant model of representation, and why. Is this transition from a view of "starving Africa" towards one of "dynamic Africa", which serves as a paradigm for our contemporary representations, necessarily an indication of a significant conceptual and political development? Moreover, it seems crucial to ask whether this "dynamic Africa" – beyond its representations and their circulation and success, and beyond the positive nature of what is said about them that they generate – actually exists. Just as the illusion of openness described by McEvilley has blinded us to the way in which we have (or have not) allowed the Other to enter our white cubes and our psyches, the aesthetic, political and media-driven model of "dynamic Africa" can also blind us to the contemporary conditions of the postcolony and the brutality of current imperialism.

Praising "dynamic Africa" is no more innocent and no less superficial and flawed than denigrating "starving Africa". On a structural level, the selective over-valorization of Africa benefits the stability of the dominant systems. In the same way, Westerners’ newly-acquired ability to recognize differences between "black people" – who were previously seen as an undifferentiated mass – as described by Diop, could be interpreted as a specification and specialization of products (a necessary consideration when new cultural consumer goods enter the market), rather than as a sign of a profound change in mentalities (at least in the specific case of France, with which I am most familiar).

Diop furthermore emphasized, while using the term in its usual sense without attributing a specific theoretical value to it, that his work was a "good product" for a new client base, whose strong attraction to his work he was clearly aware of. In raising this point, it is most definitely not the traditional relationship between artists and those who commission their work that I am criticizing here: my aim is to highlight the importance of taking into consideration the various factors that, at a given moment, influence production and reception. Diop speaks of his genuine desire to identify his work within the dual tradition of African and European art, and also evokes American and Asian cinema as influences. His work is often compared to studio photographs by renowned African masters, such as the Malian photographer Malick Sidibé. Diop cites the work of the French graphic artist and photographer Jean-Paul Goude as a source of inspiration, particularly his advertisements for Kodak. He states that "we are constantly influencing each other from one continent to the other" and that we can sense an affinity, for example, between a portrait by the Senegalese photographer Mama Casset and a painting by the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. While there is no question that African artists have also experienced modernity and that urban Africans in the 21st century are exposed to a multitude of influences (as we all are today), does the reality of this situation lead us to conclude that we have a gained a better understanding of that which is foreign to us?[5] ?

What is said
While in the preceding paragraphs I have sought to establish a connection between the critical tools with which I work and what is said by a contemporary Senegalese photographer in relation to his work, as well as what is said about his work, it is important to reiterate that my analysis does not in any way address the intentionality of the artist or the aesthetic aspects of his work, but rather the structural issues that can explain the context of the production and reception of this work. Moreover, it is not my purpose to determine what may be the best – or most appropriate – representation of contemporary Africans; that would be a futile exercise. Indeed, is a naturalistic photograph of Senegalese wrestlers taken by the Martinique-born, Dakar-based photographer Élise Fitte-Duval (Traditional Wrestling, 2009), in which what is depicted is relatively incomprehensible to me, a more accurate representation of a Senegalese person (and according to what criteria?) than Diop’s posed studio-portrait of Manden L’Original dressed in jeans and trainers? Obviously not. Both have their own reality and their own truth. Nevertheless, the exuberant interest shown by the international rumour in Diop’s portraits has its origins in specific structural causes. It seems that the Western world today only wants to see representations of Africans that are very similar to its own standards, but at the same time slightly different ("exotic"). As I was reflecting on Fitte-Duval’s wrestlers, I chanced on an article in i-D magazine entitled "Avec les lutteurs et Grace Wales Bonner au Sénégal" [With the Wrestlers and Grace Wales Bonner in Senegal] posted online on 29 September 2015 (originally published in English under the title "The New Masculinity") featuring the British fashion designer Grace Wales Bonner, who had chosen to present her latest menswear collection on Senegalese wrestlers. As we all know, fashion photography revels in appalling contrasts of this kind: with their dark skin and tattered clothes, the wrestlers used as models come across as untouchable in comparison to white-skinned and Masai models standing ramrod straight, or lascivious young women in bikinis. Yet it is interesting to observe the extent to which Wales Bonner’s project seeks to differentiate itself from this type of precedent. It is marketed as anti-racist, "anti-exoticizing" and pro-African: for example, it is not imported models who pose in pieces from the collection beside Senegalese locals, but Senegalese men themselves who wear her designs, mixed up with their own clothing. Although Wales Bonner’s venture aims for openness, it adopts conventional forms of Western aesthetics in the portrayal of the body, and the black body. In the many enthusiastic articles that can be found on the internet about Wales Bonner, the Senegalese wrestlers are, for example, seen to present a new image of black male identity, inspiring a desire to raise awareness of their aesthetic and culture. But to achieve this, Senegalese wrestlers are posed just like any model for Western underwear. Articles also mention the involvement of the British-born Nigerian musician Tunde Jegede, who provided the fashion show’s musical accompaniment, as though guaranteeing authenticity by playing the role of African griot. This example raises not only the issue of appropriationism; it also raises the question of the West’s refusal to allow any new image or form simply to be in all its strangeness and Otherness. This has also been the case for Diop’s photographs in that they have become the image of African people that the Western media world, popular culture and cultural networks have defined as being more polished, more closely related to them, and thus more acceptable. Contemporary Africans, Afro-Americans, Afropeans and Caribbean people invariably share an enduring obligation to the West: they must constantly make themselves more acceptable. This acceptability very often requires engaging in increasing mimicry, while retaining the right to exhibit certain superficial differences, whose purpose is to add a seductive nuance, thereby minimizing the impact of their Otherness and reinforcing the generalized injunction for acceptance. So, in view of this, what dialogue are we talking about?

The reason this situation and the above question are so important to me is that I am convinced that, despite appearances to the contrary, they inhibit artists who live through this experience. It is also because I believe that this situation determines the recognition – or lack thereof – that is accorded to certain artists by a global community whose most prevalent, most competitive and most exportable model is capitalism and its market ideology. Failing to meet the cosmetic criteria endorsed by the authorities of legitimation, or refusing to be extradited by these authorities, means resisting this model, with all the challenges this brings. For artists from non-Western societies, where other models have existed and struggle to survive, any form of resistance to this model is both vital and undoubtedly even more difficult to achieve than for Western artists. I am all the more aware of how this rumour can "imprison" artists as it is something I encounter personally in my work as a young curator. In the case of young women artists of the Maghreb,[6] for example, this rumour is affiliated with contemporary African art and its concomitant Western ideology. Looking once again at the photographs of Fitte-Duval, which I like very much, and those shot by Harley Weir for Wales Bonner, which I dislike intensely, I realize that what I probably hope most of all is to maintain my vigilance, our vigilance, in the face of the complex contemporary experience of those who are racialized. If Okwui Enwezor was surely right to challenge the Afro-pessimist perspective in the early 2000s, we in 2016 need to understand that racist thinking recurs in cyclic patterns – or, rather, that it never disappears, but continually takes on new forms.

By taking a closer look at the documentation gathered for the project "Photography and Orality: Dialogues in Bamako, Dakar and Elsewhere, 2011-2015", by listening to the interviews with artists and reflecting on the freedom that the contemporary African may have in contemporary African photographic representations – in the moment that this freedom appears through the creative process and, subsequently, in its presence in the world – and while wondering if, and how, this freedom could exist beyond all Western fantasies, I have wished to highlight the influential role played by reception (the rumour, the what is said by, the what is said about). To conclude the reflections I have proposed in this text, let us keep in mind how difficult it is to preserve the freedom of that which is foreign to us, and acknowledge thatit is a universal challenge that must be addressed in this era of the disenchanted postmodern dream of exposure and the hidden dangers of Afro-optimism. If this debate is part of a larger history, then its terms are changing.


Eva Barois De Caevel is independent curator based in Paris, curator at RAW Material Company and coordinator of the RAW Academy (Dakar, Senegal)


[1] Cf., in particular, Eva Barois De Caevel, "Possibilities of a queer identity that is properly African" (2014) and "Pour qui se dévoilent les indigènes de l’art contemporain?" (2014). See Bibliography at the end of this essay for all reference sources.

[2] By "cosmetic form" I refer to the graphic design of an artist’s website; the geographic paths of imposed legitimation that this artist must follow; as well as to the possibility of communicating photographs of his or her work displayed in a white cube or not.

[3] See, for example, the colonial mechanisms described by Segalen and his proposed definition of a double-edged "exoticism", seen as being as exhilarating as it is nauseating. This nauseating exoticism is epitomized by what Segalen calls the "pimps of the sensation of the diverse" – tourists, colonial writers and their readership – exemplified by Pierre Loti and his novel The Marriage of Loti, published in 1880. See Victor Segalen, Essai sur l’exotisme, Paris, Librairie générale française, 1986, p. 13. If appropriate exoticism remains possible, Segalen describes it in this way (Essai sur l’exotisme, p. 44): "Exoticism is therefore not an adaptation to something […]. It is the keen and immediate perception of an eternal incomprehensibility." For his part, McEvilley sees the rejection of a true postmodern approach to exhibition as a sign that the West fears that "geo-cultural chaos will result if judgements of quality are seen as relative." See Thomas McEvilley, L’identité culturelle en crise: art et différence à l’époque post-moderne et postcoloniale, transl. Yves Michaud, Nîmes, J. Chambon, 1999 [Art & Otherness: Crisis in Cultural Identity, Kingston, New York, McPherson, 1992].

[4] This term appears to have been invented by Andreas Malm. See Andreas Malm, Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming, London and New York, Verso, 2016.

[5] One example, in particular, may provide some insight into this distinction. A recent essay by Roxana Azimi, published on 8 January 2016 on the website LeMonde Afrique (entitled "C’est quoi un artiste africain?" [What is an African Artist?], see Bibliography at the end of this essay), features a quote from the Malian-born, London-based artist Samson Kambalu, whose practice, Azimi explains, appears to adopt the codes of Western conceptual art, when it is, in fact, influenced by the Nyau tradition of masquerade performance in Malawi. According to Kambalu, "An artist like the German Tino Sehgal is no doubt the most African of African artists. And no artists are more African than the Situationists." This intuitive interpretation is one I understand very well, but which I do not share, because whilst the art of the Nyau is based upon an epistemology that is unfamiliar to us and which may be important for us to learn more about, the practice of the British-German artist Tino Sehgal fits in perfectly with what I described at the beginning of this text as a dialogue within Western art history, which is marked by the teleology of progress. Sehgal explores, in an innovative manner (according to Western epistemology), what might be the ultimate offerings of conceptual art. The fact that aesthetic approaches and attitudes appear to resemble each other within artistic production on a global scale, and across history, is undeniable, but to infer from this that they can be equated with each other is problematic. The motivations of a Nyau artist and the context in which his or her work evolves – which I do not know – cannot be assimilated into those of a European conceptual artist. Because Kambalu neglects to differentiate between separate cultural, social and political backgrounds and between dissimilar epistemologies, and because he appears to be unaware of the historical domination of one system over another and the enduring structural inequalities, his discourse prevents us from grasping the extent to which Otherness remains beyond our reach, and, therefore, from understanding what it really means for each of us to participate in that which is universal.

[6] When I worked, for example, on discourses produced and disseminated by the reception of works by contemporary artists from the Maghreb countries of Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria and their diaspora, which address the subject of the representation of women, particularly in relation to images and uses of the veil, I had the opportunity on many occasions to speak with artists from these Maghreb countries or descendents of people born in these countries. They included young women studying in Europe, as well as a number of older women whose work had, at some point, achieved a certain degree of recognition. All of these women spoke to me about the way in which the rumour had effectively influenced their artistic practice. I had similar conversations with art professors and researchers, who had engaged in discussions with these young and older artists, and who maintained that they had never focused on their own expectations of these artists, although all admitted that they had certain expectations. In the case of the veil, I postulate that the rumour (media discourse, communication material for exhibitions, specialized publications, collectors, teachers, etc.) affirms and requires that artists condemn the veil in accordance with Western criteria and contemporary imperialist political exhortations. I would also add that we have already witnessed this type of manipulation of Maghrebi women through History within the context of unveiling ceremonies held in Algeria under French colonization.




Previous work by the author related to this essay:

On the subject of the Western rumour and the dominant mechanisms of legitimation:

- Eva Barois De Caevel, "Who Determines What is Art?", lecture, Akademie der Künste der Welt, Cologne, May 2016.

On the subject of the requirement for self-representation to conform to criteria determined by Western cultural authorities (as applied to women, queers and those who engage in sexual relations with people of the same sex, in the case of artists from a non-Western societies):

- Eva Barois De Caevel, "'N’êtes-vous donc pas jolie? Dévoilez-vous!': Images et usages contemporains du voile chez les femmes artistes du Maghreb et de la diaspora", lecture at the "Relectures postcoloniales" seminar, Villa Medici, Rome, April 2015.

- Eva Barois De Caevel, "Corps qui répètent, corps qui parlent", Body Talk (catalogue for an exhibition held at WIELS, Brussels, the Lunds Konsthall, Lund, and the FRAC Lorraine, Metz), Zurich, Brussels and Dakar, Motto Distribution, WIELS and RAW Material Company, 2015.

- Eva Barois De Caevel, "Pour qui se dévoilent les indigènes de l’art contemporain?",, no. 7, April 2014.

- Eva Barois De Caevel, "Possibilities of a queer identity that is properly African", Berlin, Contemporary And (special edition printed for the Dak’art Biennale in 2014), May 2014.

- Eva Barois De Caevel, "Sortir de la nation? – Une lecture de 'Gender, race and the reinvention of difference' by Shireen Hassim", lecture, official launch of issue no. 6 of the magazine AFRIKADAA, Dakar, March 2014.

Other bibliographic references mentioned in this essay:

- Roxana Azimi, "C’est quoi un artiste africain?",, Paris, January 2016.

- Okwui Enwezor, "The Uses of Afro-Pessimism", New Positions in Contemporary African Photography, Göttingen, Steidl, 2006.

- Isabelle Lauze & Ousmane Ndiaye (eds.), "Afrique 3.0 – Les Africains racontent la nouvelle dynamique du continent", Courrier International, special issue, Paris, March 2013.

- Andreas Malm, Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming, London and New York, Verso, 2016.

- Thomas McEvilley, translated from the English by Yves Michaud, L’identité culturelle en crise: art et différence à l’époque postmoderne et postcoloniale, Nîmes, J. Chambon, 1999 [Art & Otherness: Crisis in Cultural Identity, McPherson, 1992].

- Victor Segalen, Essai sur l’exotisme, Paris, Librairie générale française, 1986.

- Grace Wales Bonner, Julia Sarr-Jamois and Harley Weir, "Avec les lutteurs et Grace Wales Bonner au Sénégal",, Paris, 2016.