FotoFest International Biennial

African Cosmologies
Photography, Time and the Other

24 September - 6 November 2022

Curated by Mark Sealy for FotoFest International Biennial

About the exhibition

Autograph's Director Mark Sealy is curating African Cosmologies – Photography, Time and the Other, the main exhibition at Houston's FotoFest 18th International Biennial in 2020. The festival will focus on artists of Africa and its diaspora.

African Cosmologies will feature over 30 artists from across the continent and its diaspora, making it one of the largest exhibitions of African photography.

With decades of work against a colonized view of photography in Africa, Sealy explains, “Photographic images can only be understood within the contexts of the cultures to which they relate. Only once we understand the cultures within which an image is made, and read, can we begin to lock down any real meaning ... The establishment of a canonical reading of photography is in no way universal or democratic. Photography for those locked out of the means of image production becomes an impossible barrier to the right to full and equal human recognition,” says Sealy. “Especially if existence alone is an act of survival.”

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Autograph has more than 30 years of curatorial expertise in photography and film addressing issues of representation, identity, social justice and human rights.

Working on exhibitions off-site from Autograph's gallery in London, our curators bring Autograph's knowledge and ethos to projects in the UK and abroad.

Steven Evans, FotoFest Executive Director, notes “FotoFest has a long history of international engagement, and we are especially excited to be working with photographers from Africa and its diaspora in 2020.”

“Mark Sealy’s reputation and legacy of thoughtful exhibitions, programs, lectures and books is remarkable, and has established him as a leading expert and advocate for Black and African photography,” says Evans, continuing “His meticulous engagement with important issues within society and culture aligns closely with FotoFest’s mission and ideals.”

The African Cosmologies program will include the central exhibition, on view across multiple venues; a hardcover book; a conference on contemporary African photographic arts; forums and panel discussions; commissioned projects; a curated film program; and other programs. The hardcover book will include reproductions from Biennial artists, and essays from international experts on African art.

Early funding for the development and presentation of the FotoFest Biennial 2020 comes from the Brown Foundation Inc., Houston Endowment, the Wortham Foundation, the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, and the Texas Commission on the Arts.


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About Fotofest

FotoFest International, a platform for art and ideas, presents the first and longest-running international Biennial of photography and new media art in the United States.

A cultural non-profit organization based in Houston, Texas, FotoFest organizes year-round exhibitions and a classroom-based learning program, Literacy Through Photography that uses photography as a tool to strengthen student writing and learning skills. FotoFest’s acclaimed Biennial and related programs are distinguished by their commitment to social issues and the presentation of important new contemporary artwork that is often not yet widely shown.

Two men wrapped in a red blanket. One is wearing a pearl crown and looking upward, while the other rests his head on the firsts shoulder.

find out more

Read more about the FotoFest Biennial 2020

A man stood holding a mask on his shoulder. His eyes are closed and he is wearing a headdress made of flowers.

In the press

Houston’s FotoFest will focus on Africa in 2020

Houston Chronicle

A lady with her skin painted red. She has a red headdress that curls out either side of her head and is holding something.


African Cosmologies: Photography, Time and the Other

New photobook to add to your lockdown reading list

Autograph's Director Mark Sealy stood in front of a painting by Sharif Persaud. The painting is of a man floating in the seaAutograph's Director Mark Sealy stood in front of a painting by Sharif Persaud. The painting is of a man floating in the sea


Ocula Magazine

Mark Sealy: African Cosmologies at FotoFest Biennial 2020


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Banner image: Rotimi Fani Kayode, Untitled, 1987-88. Page images, from top left: 1) Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Every Moment Counts, from the series Ecstatic Antibodies, 1989. 2) Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Adebiyi, 1989. 3) Wilfred Ukpong, BC1-ND-FC: By and by, I Will Carry this Burden of Hope, till the Laments of my Newborn is Heard #2, 2017. From the series Blazing Century 1, Niger-Delta/Future-Cosmos, 2011–17. Courtesy of Wilfred Ukpong and Blazing Century Studios, Nigeria. 4) Mark Sealy in Sharif Persaud's exhibition at Autograph, 2020.