November 4, 2010 8:28 AM   Subscribe

Seydou Keïta, self taught Malian portrait photographer, shot some of the most renowned portraiture of 1940 - 1960's Bamakan society.

Seydou's portraits were produced as small photos that could be easily mailed back often to their families in rural Mali. After being noticed by a French photographer, he eventually became known internationally for his portraits with expositions at Centre Pompidou and the Gagosian Gallery.

NY Times on Keïta

Interview with Keïta

Many of the photos played on the contrast in patterns of African clothing and backdrops of similar fabrics. This type of clothing is known as batik. It is the common style of clothing in West Africa, from Ghana to Senegal. But it actually came from Java, brought back to Africa by, amongst other things, by W. African soldiers who served in Indonesia between 1810 and 1862.

The “African Print” Hoax: Machine Produced Textiles Jeopardize African Print Authenticity

Veritable Wax Hollandais

Batik kimonos


Another Bamako photographer of note, shooting a bit later into the 60/70s Bamako is Malick Sidibé.

Interview with Sidibé

Short documentary

Lastly, Manu Dibango plays tribute to the West African photo studio and the pioneering work of artists like Keïta and Sidibé in his music video "Woa."
posted by iamck (12 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
These guys appear to be wearing exactly the same glasses - I wonder if that was the only available style, the most popular at the time, or (my guess) a photographer's prop.

These ladies are the coolest.
posted by theodolite at 8:48 AM on November 4, 2010

Those are lovely.

I wonder if the Mlle. Keïta in the Sidibé photographs (the beautiful woman looking super-boss in cat-eye sunglasses) is a relative of Seydou Keïta? Or is that a very common surname in Mali?
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:49 AM on November 4, 2010

theodolite, I'm going with "prop" because the glasses don't have lenses in them.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:58 AM on November 4, 2010

Keïta is a pretty common name. The founder of the Mali empire was a Keïta...
posted by iamck at 9:01 AM on November 4, 2010


And even more kudos for finding the cool stuff on African batik
posted by The Lady is a designer at 9:25 AM on November 4, 2010

there's another seydou keita playing at fc barcelona
posted by valdesm at 9:31 AM on November 4, 2010

I see what you did there.
posted by ersatz at 10:02 AM on November 4, 2010

This woman's dress is amazing. Thanks for posting this!
posted by shinyshiny at 12:41 PM on November 4, 2010

He has an amazing eye for combining patterns. I've got to think that the painter Kehinde Wiley was inspired by his work.
posted by ocherdraco at 2:10 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Really amazing stuff. Love the fabrics and patterns.
posted by matkline at 2:51 PM on November 4, 2010

What a great post! Thanks so much.
posted by mediareport at 4:18 PM on November 4, 2010

Awesome post. Love the layering and repetition of the "authenticity v. transformation" thread that you've followed from photography through fabric to music. Also love the beautiful content!
posted by Ahab at 7:55 PM on November 4, 2010

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