Sheep magazine Archive 2: issues 10-17

AlfRodchenko

Lefty online magazine: issue 10, May 2016 to issue 17, November 2016

SEYDOU KEÏTA

P H O T O G R A P H E R

Back in May, in issue 10 of ‘Sheep in the Road’, we spotlighted Malian

photographer Malick Sidibé, here is another, also from Bamako, Seydou

Keïta. Keïta’s use of repeat pattern backdrops for his portraits are widely

acknowledged, not only as a record of Malian society (1940-1960) but also

as art.

From the introduction to this book, ‘What was Seydou Keïta seeking when

his subjects walked into his studio in Bamako, Mali? Clearly he saw the

extraordinary beauty and stunning graphics of the women’s clothing – the

extravagant shapes of the sleeves and the billowing sumptuousness of the

skirts. He recognised the stately power of the queenly turbans that so many of

the women wore, lending them a commanding air. His men were dashing,

and Keïta tailored his images to emphasize the pleasing contours of an

oversizzed jacket or a short pant leg. He fashioned these pictures by layering

pattern on pattern. He understood how overlapping geometric expanses could

electrify a picture. Keïta was Matisse’s soul mate, evoking the pleasurable

charge of Matisse’s flattened panes of vibrant colour with his interlocking

black and white patterns. His eyes were open to all the seductive powers of

ornamentation and adornment. Many of his subjects were achingly beautiful

in their African splendour. He was large-hearted, bestowing on his sitters a

honed sense of how to make each as becoming as they could be. The aplomb

with which they present themselves and yet the utter ordinariness of the

storefront photograph creates a heightened mix of formality and intimacy that

is beguiling.’ [writes Kathy Ryan]

39

October 2016

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