Seydou Keïta was born in Bamako, Mali in 1921, then part of the colony of French Sudan and a bustling transportation hub on the route to Dakar. With a Kodak Brownie given to him by his uncle, Keïta took up photography at the age of fourteen, going on to establish what would become Bamako's most successful portraiture enterprise of the 1950s and 60s. Photographs, Bamako, Mali 1949-1970 draws on an expanded archive to offer over 400 portraits, mostly unpublished, from the height of the photographer's productivity in downtown Bamako. Providing lushly patterned backdrops and props that now serve to date distinct periods in his career, the artist often styled his subjects but also encouraged their active participation, hanging sample portraits around the studio as inspiration. Migratory youth, government officials, shop owners and Bamako's cultural elite all make appearances here, and while Keïta's photographs served as both family record and cultural status symbol for the clients who commissioned them, these images have become a lasting visual record of Mali at that time.
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