Presenting an overview of the artistry and career of internationally renowned Malian photographer Malick Sidibé, “Picturing Identity” focuses on Sidibé’s portrait photographs taken in Bamako, Mali’s capital city, between 1960-2009. To deepen our understanding of these images, this presentation unpacks the ways in which Sidibé’s clients used portrait photography to explore, construct, and preserve desired aspects of their self-identity, considering the particular facets they sought to convey, the types of personalities and relationships they wished to portray, and how Sidibé and his apprentices were able to visually articulate and emphasize those in photographs through artistic innovations and the application of local aesthetic ideals. Moreover, it looks at how Sidibé employed similar methods within a series of photographs that he purposefully created for an international—particularly Western—audience in the 21st century; thereby, it addresses the potential power indigenous aesthetics have in global contexts while highlighting Sidibé’s particular contributions to contemporary humanistic and artistic dialog.
Candace M. Keller is Associate Professor of African Art and Visual Culture in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design and Associate Director of Matrix: The Center for Digital Humanities and Social Science at Michigan State University. Over the past twenty years, her research has centered on the histories of photographic practice in Mali, which has been published in her book, Imaging Culture: Photography in Mali, West Africa (Indiana University Press 2021), as well as in several journal articles, exhibition catalogs, and edited volumes on photography and fashion. She also directs the Archive of Malian Photography (amp.matrix.msu.edu), a multi-year project funded by the British Library and National Endowment for the Humanities that is designed to protect more than 100,000 negatives in the archives of important professional photographers in Mali from decay and exploitation while rendering the collection globally accessible online in the service of research and education.
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