Candace Keller, Michigan State University art historian, will visit West Shore Community College on Nov. 15, at 12:30 p.m., to speak on the development of photography in the West African country of Mali. Keller’s presentation is in the Center Stage Theater.
She is the author of “Visual Griots: Identity, Aesthetics, and the Social Roles of Portrait Photographers in Mali,” a chapter from the book “Portraiture & Photography in Africa,” edited by John Peffer and Elisabeth L. Cameron.
In it, Keller argues that Malian studio photographers should be understood as “visual griots” since they are “creators and preservers of individual and collective identities” in that they function as “personal and social historians, retaining archives of images that document political, social, and personal changes and events.”
Keller was instrumental in securing a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to preserve and digitize 100,000 black and white negatives in the collections of Mali’s most important photographers dating from the 1940s.
Collaborating with the photographers and their families, Keller worked to save endangered negatives from the ravages of time and weather. The digitalized, low-resolution images became the Archive of Malian Photography at MSU, a publicly accessible database intended to provide valuable documentation of the modernization of Western Africa and features family portraits, photos of military activities, political events, cultural and religious ceremonies, and other aspects of popular culture.
From this database of Malian photographs, Keller curated the exhibit, “Mopti à la Mode: Photographs by Tijani Sitou,” currently on display in the Manierre Dawson Gallery until Dec. 2. Her presentation explores the important work done by these photographers to capture the identities of a people and a culture while also advancing the art of photography in Mali.
The accompanying Manierre Dawson Gallery exhibit, comprised of portraits of people from the Mopti community, is free and open to the public.
Part of the three-year Humankind Project, both are the next to the last events for the current semester.
The final event will be an all-day screening of the feature length documentary film “Black Gold” on Dec. 5, in the MBT room in the Administration and Conference building. Also, free and open to the public, the last screening begins at 3:30 p.m.
The Humankind Project’s focus on sub-Saharan Africa will resume in January and will run through April 2018.
Author: Thomas Hawley | Executive Director of College Relations