Photography in Mali, West Africa
Published by: Indiana University Press
Imaging Culture is a sociohistorical study of the meaning, function, and aesthetic significance of photography in Mali, West Africa, from the 1930s to the present. Spanning the dynamic periods of colonialism, national independence, socialism, and democracy, its analysis focuses on the studio and documentary work of professional urban photographers, particularly in the capital city of Bamako and in smaller cities such as Mopti and Ségu.
Featuring the work of more than twenty-five photographers, it concentrates on those who have been particularly influential for the local development and practice of the medium as well as its international popularization and active participation in the contemporary art market.
Imaging Culture looks at how local aesthetic ideas are visually communicated in the photographers' art and argues that though these aesthetic arrangements have specific relevance for local consumers, they transcend geographical and cultural boundaries to have value for contemporary global audiences as well.
Imaging Culture is an important and visually interesting book which will become a standard source for those who study African photography and its global impact.
Development of Photography in Mali
1. Photography and Urbanization (1890–1940s)
2. Heyday of Black and White (1950s–1980s)
3. Photography as Social Agency
4. Visual Griots—Photographic Artistry and Invention
5. Portraiture and Mande Aesthetics
6. Ja and Metaphysical Dimensions of Photography
7. Contemporary Practice and International Market (1990s–Present)
"This groundbreaking book challenges the Western hegemonic perspectives on Malian photography that have redefined the work of photographers such as Seydou Keita and Malick Sidibe as "fine art" with little to no regard for the original intent of the photos, photographers, or the photographed. Keller leads us through the history of photography in Mali, the development of photography as a Malian cultural practice in the 20th century, and then explores the core cultural beliefs, practices, and ways of thinking that are represented in the work of Malian professional photographers, both past and present. Working in the framework of postcolonial analysis, Keller situates the art and the craft of photography in Mali in theories of agency and practice, exposing it as a medium of transcultural fluency and transnational imaging."~Barbara G. Hoffman, Cleveland State University
"Since the 1990s, Malian portrait photography has captivated an international audience to the point where Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé have become icons of pop culture and fashion. But how did Malians understand their work? In this impeccably researched social history, Candace Keller situates Keïta and Sidibé in a dynamic community of over 80 photographers stretching from the 1880s-1980s. She unpacks the technical, economic, aesthetic, and socio-cultural dimensions of their photographic imagemaking. The text also examines the unequal relationships embedded in international exhibition practices and ends with an important call to action to maintain photographic archives in country. This is a rich volume full of surprises."~Z. S. Strother, Riggio Professor of African Art, Columbia University
"This brilliant and comprehensive book on the history of Malian photography convincingly updates our knowledge and provides the local contextualization necessary to deconstruct prevalent Western-centric art discourses. Keller's innovative research reveals the aesthetic and metaphysical aspects of photographic practice from a Mande perspective."~Erika Nimis, Université du Québec à Montréal
"Imaging Culture challenges the Eurocentric framing that has dominated the critical reception of African photography since the 1990s. By exploring the work and professional genealogies of Malian photographers through the lens of key Mande social and aesthetic concepts, Keller offers a compelling alternative that is at once both culturally specific and transcultural. The volume highlights photography's critical role at key moments of Mali's complicated history of liberation, dictatorship, civil unrest, democracy, and urbanization, and is rich with details of the lived experience of the photographers and their clients, informed by indigenous concepts of modernity."~Barbara E. Frank, Stony Brook University
"Keller divides her splendidly illustrated book into, first, a history of photography in Mali in the twentieth century and, second, a deep inquiry into the social values, old and new, that Malians have expressed in their visual imagery."~Diana Wylie, H-Africa
"Keller's devotion to her subject led her to spend eighteen years exploring Malian cultures. As her rich footnotes reveal, she consulted archives in France and Mali, commanded the rich scholarly literature on Mali as well as local proverbs, and studied the Bamanankan language."~Diana Wylie - Boston University, H-Net (Africa)
Preserving Heritage in Mali
Although global interest in African photography has flourished over the past 20 years, access to photographers’ studio archives has been limited and published materials are minimal. Retained in private archives, most of these materials are not cataloged, properly preserved, or internationally accessible. Stored in harsh climactic conditions, the physical integrity of these collections have remained in serious jeopardy and, due to the high commercial value of these archives, these materials have been vulnerable to mistreatment and theft. AMP addresses these issues by safeguarding original materials in Mali from further damage, theft, and exploitation. Since 2011, Candace Keller, Associate Professor of African Art and Visual Culture in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design, has led an international team of photographers, archival proprietors, conservators, and students who have cleaned, restored, digitized, cataloged, and rehoused more than 100,000 black-and-white negatives, dating from the 1950s-80s, from the archives of five prominent Malian photographers – Mamadou Cissé, Adama Kouyaté, Abdourahmane Sakaly, Malick Sidibé, and Tijani Sitou.
Faculty Research - Digitizing African Photography
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