Embodying Relation

Art Photography in Mali

Embodying Relation

Art History Publication Initiative

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Book Pages: 376 Illustrations: 102 color and b&w illustrations Published: July 2020

Author: Allison Moore

African Studies, Art and Visual Culture > Photography, Theory and Philosophy > Postcolonial Theory

In Embodying Relation Allison Moore examines the tensions between the local and the global in the art photography movement in Bamako, Mali, which blossomed in the 1990s after Malian photographers Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé became internationally famous and the Bamako Photography Biennale was founded. Moore traces the trajectory of Malian photography from the 1880s—when photography first arrived as an apparatus of French colonialism—to the first African studio practitioners of the 1930s and the establishment in 1994 of the Bamako Biennale, Africa's most important continent-wide photographic exhibition. In her detailed discussion of Bamakois artistic aesthetics and institutions, Moore examines the post-fame careers of Keïta and Sidibé, the biennale's structure, the rise of women photographers, cultural preservation through photography, and how Mali's shift to democracy in the early 1990s enabled Bamako's art scene to flourish. Moore shows how Malian photographers' focus on cultural exchange, affective connections with different publics, and merging of traditional cultural precepts with modern notions of art embody Caribbean philosopher and poet Édouard Glissant's notion of “relation” in ways that spark new artistic forms, practices, and communities.


“Allison Moore's Embodying Relation examines the history of the Bamako art photography movement through its institutions and its aesthetics and the profound effect of transnational encounters on the agency of art photographers in Mali. She provides art historians with a comprehensive analysis of the most important site of photography discourse in Africa, thus bridging the disciplinary boundaries that usually narrate African cultural production outside the pale of art history. Research in photography in Africa provides a great platform for linking African art history to global art history by locating both in a coeval contemporaneity. As such, the importance of Moore's orientation for art history cannot be overemphasized.” — Sylvester Okwunodu Ogbechie, author of Making History: African Collectors and the Canon of African Art


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Allison Moore has a PhD in Art History from the Graduate Center, City University of New York, and has published in numerous journals and exhibition catalogs.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction: A Poetics of Relation  1
1. Unknown Photographer (Bamako, Mali)  27
2. Malian Portraiture Glamorized and Globalized  62
3. Biennale Effects: The African Photography Encounters  98
4. Bamako Becoming Photographic: An Archipelagic Art World  145
5. Creolizing the Archive: Photographers at the National Museum  171
6. Promoting Women Photographers  210
7. Errantry, the Social Body, and Photography as the Écho-monde  249
Conclusion  276
Notes  281
Bibliography  325
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Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0662-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0597-1