Simon Njami

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Simon Njami (born in 1962 in Lausanne) is a writer and an independent curator, lecturer, art critic and essayist.

He has published his first novel "Cercueil et Cie" in 1985, followed by "Les Enfants de la Cité" in 1987, "Les Clandestins" and "African Gigolo" in 1989, notably. He wrote two biographies, about James Baldwin and Léopold Sédar Senghor, several short texts, scripts for cinema and documentary films.

Njami is the co-founder of Revue Noire, a journal of contemporary African and extra-occidental art, and he was Visiting Professor at UCSD (University of San Diego California).

After conceiving the Ethnicolor Festival in Paris in 1987, he curated many international exhibitions being among the first ones to think and show African contemporary artists work on international stages. He has served as Artistic Director of Bamako Encounters, the African Photography Biennale, from 2001 to 2007. Njami is the curator of "Africa Remix", showed in Düsseldorf (Museum Kunst Palast), London (Hayward Gallery), Paris (Centre Pompidou), Tokyo (Mori Museum), Stockholm (Moderna Museet) and Johannesburg (Johannesburg Art Gallery), from 2004 to 2007. He co-curated the first African Pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale. He curated the first African Art Fair, held in Johannesburg in 2008, and was the Artistic Director of Luanda Triennale (2010), Picha (Lumumbashi Biennale – 2010), SUD (Douala Triennale – 2010), among others exhibitions and international art events.

His new exhibition "The Divine Comedy – Heaven, Hell, Purgatory by Contemporary African Artists" will be shown at The SCAD Museum of Art from October 16 to January 25. It was previously shown at MMK (Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main) from 21 March to 27 July 2014.

Invited to be part of numerous art and photography juries, such as the World Press Photo Contest, Njami is the Art Adviser of the Sindika Dokolo Foundation (Luanda) and the Artistic Director of the Donwahi Foundation (Abidjan) and member of the scientific boards of numerous museums.

He is currently directing "At Work", an itinerant and digital project with Lettera27 Foundation, in partnership with Moleskine, as well as the Pan African Master Classes in Photography, project that he conceived with the Goethe Institut, and setting up the collection of contemporary art for the future Memorial Acte Museum in Guadeloupe.

Published Books[edit]

  • Cercueil et Cie, novel, Lieu Commun, Paris, 1985
  • Les Enfants de la Cité, novel, Gallimard, Folio Junior, Paris, 1987
  • African Gigolo, novel, Seghers, 1989
  • Les Clandestins, novel, Gallimard, Folio Junior, Paris, 1989
  • James Baldwin ou le devoir de violence, biography, Seghers, Paris, 1991
  • C'était Senghor, biography, Fayard, Paris, 2006

Exhibitions (selection)[edit]

  • The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists, MMK (Museum für Moderne Kunst), Frankfurt am Main, 2014 - SCAD Museum, Savannah, USA, 2014-2015
  • Wir sind alle Berliner, SAVVY Contemporary, Berlin, Germany, 15th November 2014 - 28 February 2015.
  • Portrait of Marrakech, Magnum Photos and Marrakech Museum for Photography and Visual Art (MMP+), 2013
  • Art at Work, co-produced by the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Co-curator with David Adjaye, Kampala, Ouganda, 2012.
  • Dokolo/Revue Noire Collection, Bamako encounters, 2011
  • Moataz Nasr, Chain reaction, Chateau de Blandy, France, 2011
  • Art at Work, co-produced by the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Co-curator with David Adjaye, Ouagadougou, Addis Ababa, 2010
  • A Collective Diary, Herzilya Museum, Israel, 2010
  • Fiction#3, Bili Bidjocka, Abbaye de Maubuisson, France, May 2010
  • A useful dream, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, June 2010
  • As you like it (First African contemporary art fair), Johannesburg, March 2008
  • Artistic director of the Luanda Triennale, sept/dec 2010
  • Artistic Director of Picha (Lubumbabshi biennale), Oct 2010
  • Artistic director of SUD (Douala triennale), dec 2010
  • Ordinary pain, Noorderlicht festival Groningen, September 2009
  • Made in Africa, The Dokolo Collection, National Museum, Nairobi, 2009
  • Beyond the Desert, Darb 1718, Cairo, 2009
  • Co-Curator of the First African Pavilion at the 52e Venice Biennale, 2007
  • The Invention of memory, Réunion Island, September 2007
  • Chief curator of the VIIe Rencontres de Bamako, November 2007
  • L'image révélée, Tunis, 2006
  • Cities scape, ARCO 2006
  • Chief curator of les Rencontres africaines de la Photographie, Bamako, 2005
  • Africa Remix, Düsseldorf, Londres, Paris, Tokyo, Stockholm, Johannesburg, 2004/2007
  • Un prisme lucide – photographies, Biennale de São Paulo, São Paulo, 2004
  • Chief curator of les Rencontres africaines de la Photographie, Bamako, 2003
  • Up and Coming, ARCO, Madrid, 2003
  • Co-commissaire de Next Flag, Bruxelles, Zürich, 2002
  • Chief curator of les Rencontres africaines de la Photographie, Bamako, 2001
  • Le temps de l'Afrique, Las Palmas, 2000, Madrid, 2001
  • Biennale d'Art contemporain de Dakar (co-curator), Dakar, mai 2000
  • L'Afrique par elle-même, photographies (co-curator), Paris, São Paulo, Londres, Bamako, Washington, Berlin, Cape Town, 1998/1999
  • Traces of Identity, photographies, Toronto, 1997
  • Suites Africaines (co-curator), Couvent des Cordeliers, Paris, 1997
  • Die Andere Reise, Vienne, 1996
  • Otro Pais, Las Palmas, Palma de Majorque, Barcelone, 1995
  • Paris Connection, Paris/San Francisco, 1991
  • Ethnicolor, Paris, 1987

Texts and Co-editions (selection)[edit]

  • Le cœur absolu, on the V12 Laraki by Eric Van Hove, monography, Marrakech, 2014
  • Heaven can wait, introduction to the catalogue of the photographer Thabiso Sekgala, 2014
  • Une hétérochronie permanente, introduction to the 5th edition of the Marrakech Biennale, 2014
  • The Burst of Silence, in Deutscher Pavilion 2013, 55th International Art Exhibition, edited by Susanne Gaensheimer, Gestalten, 2013
  • Imagined Communities, in Condition Report, Symposium on Building Art Institutions in Africa, edited by Koyo Kouoh, Hatje Cantz and Raw Material Company, Dakar, 2013
  • Issa Samb (The stranger), Word ! Word ? Word !, edited by Koyo Kouoh, Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA) and Raw Material Company, 2013
  • Zwelethu Mthethwa, a contemporary myth, Revue Noire/La Fabrica, 2012
  • Of Curating and Audiences/ Art at Work, 2012
  • Allons enfants !, in Intense Proximité, Une anthologie du Proche et du Lointain, La Triennale, 2012
  • Ananias Léki, Fragments, Goethe-Institut Nairobi, 2012
  • Sam Nhlengethwa, Variations on a thème, 2012
  • Invisibility, Fondazione di Venezia, Venice, 2012
  • Fictional Faculties, IUAV, University of Venice, Venice, 2012
  • Stabat Mater, an introduction to the work of the Haïtian artist Mario Benjamin, Revue Noire, Paris, 2012
  • The Re-enchantment of the World, an introduction to the work of the Congolese artist Pume, Revue Noire, Paris, 2012
  • The Impudence of the Stars, in Light Years, an exhibition of the Spanish artist Eugènia Balcells, Edicions de l'Eixample, Barcelona, 2012
  • Samuel Fosso, a dandy in Bangui, Revue Noire/La Fabrica, 2011
  • Editor of the artist's book, Moataz Nasr, The other Side of the Mirror, Gliori publishers, 2010
  • Yinka Shonibare, MBE : le masque transparent, Exhibition book of Yinka Shonibare's Works, Nouveau Musée National de Monaco, 5 Continents, 2010
  • Me and Ms A., Exhibition book of Jane Alexander's works, 2010
  • Dorian Gray in Bangui, works by Samuel Fosso, La Fabrica/Revue Noire Publishers, France, Spain, 2010
  • Street Urchin, works by Kiluanji Kia Henda, Steidl publishers, Germany, 2010
  • Une illusion sophistiquée (on the Ethiopian photographer Aida Muluneh), 2009
  • Un mystère à conserver (on the French photographer Laurence Leblanc), 2009
  • The constant Gardner, an introduction to Mechac Gaba's work, 2009
  • Introduction to Ingrid Mwangi's works (catalogue), 2008
  • Introduction de Andrew Tshabangu's works (monograph), 2008
  • Introduction to Moataz Nasr's works (catalogue), 2008
  • Introduction to Ghada Amer's works, 2007
  • Introduction to Youssef Nabil's works (catalogue), 2007
  • L'image révélée, catalogue of exhibition, 2006
  • Guy Tillim: Jo'burg, Portrait of a City, in Portfolio Magazine #44, 2006
  • Amal Kenawy, catalogue de la Biennale de Sydney, 2005
  • Editor of L’Afrique en regards, une brève histoire de la photographie, Filigranes, Paris, 2005
  • Claude Rosticher : la poésie à l’œuvre, Monaco, 2004
  • Chaos et Métamorphose, introduction à l’exposition Africa Remix, Hatje Cantz, 2004
  • A Young Woman in Quest, the work of Loulou Cherinet, catalogue Biennale de Sydney, 2004
  • Zineb Sedira, An Assumed Autobiography, Corner House, London, 2004
  • Le mystère révélé/ The Mystery revealed, introduction au catalogue des Ve Rencontres de la Photographie Africaine de Bamako, Eric Koehler, Paris, 2003
  • The End of the Empire, catalogue de l'exposition Happyness, Mori Art Museum, Tankosha Publishing Co, Kyoto/Tokyo, 2003
  • Mozart and Me, Fernando Alvim – the Psychoanalysis of the World, Ingrid Mwangi, 2003
  • Memory in the Skin, Looking both Ways catalogue, Museum for African Art, New York, Snoeck, Gent, 2003
  • Lettre à une jeune fille, in Babylon Babies –Marie-Jo Lafontaine, Hatje Cantz, 2003
  • Co-editor and co-author of the Antholoy of XXth Century African Art, Revue Noire, Paris, 2001, DAP, New York, 2002
  • Co-curator and co-author of BLINK, photographies, Phaïdon, London, 2002
  • Jane Alexander, A Turbulent Silence, introduction to the catalogue of Daimler Chrysler Award, Hatje Cantz, 2002
  • El Corazon de las luces, in Planeta Kurtz, Random House Mondadori, Barcelona, 2002
  • Cronicas del hijo de un siglo, Espacio C, Camargo, 2002
  • A certain View of Mankind, for the exhibition Portraits of Pride, Samuel Fosso, Seydou Keita, Malick Sidibé, Moderna Museet Stockholm, Raster Forlag, 2002
  • Das doppelte glück der sanftmut und der bitterkeit, in the catalogue of Africa Apart, NGBK, Berlin, 2002
  • Pascale Marthine Tayou, Between himself and the Other, with Pierre-Olivier Rollin, text for the Documenta 11, published by the Communauté Wallonie-Bruxelles, 2002
  • Chroniques d'un millénaire / Chronicles of a Millennium, introduction au catalague des IVè Rencontres de la Photographie Africaine de Bamako, Eric Koehler, Paris, 2001
  • Les Spores de l'étamine, in the catalogue of the exhibition Afriques, Barcelona, 2001
  • Der Kurator als Nackter König, Kontextualisierung und Dekontextualisierung, in the catalogue South meets West, Kunsthalle Bern, 2000
  • L'invention de la vie, in Peut-on être vivant en Afrique, Presses Universitaires de France, 2000
  • Co-editor and co-author of the Anthology of African Photography, Revue Noire, Paris, 1997, DAP, New York, 1999
  • Co-editor of Pierre Verger, Le Messager, photographies, Revue Noire, Paris 1993, DAP, New York, 1996
  • Co-editor and co-author of Rotimi Fani-Kayodé et Alex Hirst, Photographs, Revue Noire/Autograph, Paris/Londres, 1996
  • Remembrance of things Past, Ten years of debate about African Contemporary Art, Tobu Museum of Art, 1998
  • El Anatsui, un artiste sur le fil de l'histoire, in El Anatsui, A Sculpted History of Africa, October Gallery, Saffron Books, London, 1998
  • Ethnicolor, edited with Bruno Tilliette, Autrement, Paris, 1987

Cinema and Documentary films[edit]

  • Le Président, a film by Jean Pierre Bekolo, 2013
  • Lhoooby, documentary on African Contemporary Art, co-directed and written with Pascale Marthine Tayou and Jean-Loup Pivin, Arte, 1997
  • Le complot d'Aristote (screenplay), a film by Jean Pierre Bekolo, 1996
  • Black Power, Black Music: a documentary film in a thematic evening written and directed with Jean-François Bizot, Arte, 1994
  • Balck Micmac (collaboration), a film by Thomas Gilou, 1986

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