Archive of Malian Photography

Tags: Africa, British Library, Culture, Multimedia & Digital Archives, National Endowment for the Humanities

MATRIX has received a National Endowment for the Humanities Grant to support the Archive of Malian Photography. Its mission is to digitize, catalog, preserve, and make internationally accessible the archives of four of Mali’s most important photographers: Abdourahmane Sakaly, El Hadj Tijani Sitou, Malick Sidibé, and Adama Kouyaté.

In collaboration with Candace Keller, a professor in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design and the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University, MATRIX will archive and share approximately 100,000 of the most historically and culturally significant negatives and original prints dating from the 1940s to the present. While these photographers are among the most locally, and internationally, renowned photographers in Mali, their collections form an historical overview of professional studio and governmental photography practices in the country from the 1950s to the 1990s. Spanning the eras of French colonialism, political independence, socialism, and democracy, the archives reveal important socio-political transformations of present-day Mali, its capital, and smaller towns along the Niger River during the twentieth century. Documenting social, cultural, and political life as well as processes of urban development, their photographs vividly capture changes and continuities in cultural practices, artistic production, social trends, and political realities in Mali and, by extension, French West Africa, and represent the unique artistic innovations and photographic styles of their creators.

For over twenty years, Mali has remained the international nexus of African photography. Its capital, Bamako, is home to the only biennial festival of photography in Africa and has produced the continent’s most globally renowned professional photographers. Now, the development of the Archive of Malian Photography will promote and preserve Mali’s cultural heritage in an ethically accessible manner to a worldwide audience of scholars and students.