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This journal is a creative outlet of all the things Kali Brown loves, from fashion, diy's, art, museum galleries to even food.  I am not a professional blogger and the things I share are my sole opinion. Enjoy my creative voyage!

Filtering by Tag: African Artist

Find Us On The Map

Kali Abdullah

Satirist Sports by Andile Buka

Satirist Sports by Andile Buka

Last week I went to the opening of Find Us On The Map! a photo exhibition presented by Lagos Photo and Rush Arts Gallery.

The exhibit explores recurring themes in contemporary visual culture in Africa and encourages the audience to Find Us on the Map in accordance with the title of the exhibition.  Though there is now a widespread awareness that Africa is not a country, are we better informed about the vast geographical entity? We may be able to name a few countries within Africa but can we find them on a map? 

Nigerian Identity by Ima Mfon

Nigerian Identity by Ima Mfon

Some of the featured exhibits include Ima Mfon's Nigerian Identity series that tackles the false stereotype of homogenized blackness.  In this series of photographic portraits all the subjects are presented in a uniform manner, photographed on a white seamless background, looking directly into the lens, and enhanced so that their skin tones are virtually identical.  This idea stems from Mfon's experiences living in America where "black" has always been used as a generic descriptive label.  By using a plain background he eliminated any cultural or ethnic context, whether it be urban or an African wilderness and he makes the skin tones in these images rich, deep and beautiful to celebrate beautiful skin that's often oppressed and marginalized.

Nigerian Identity by Ima Mfon

Nigerian Identity by Ima Mfon

Jenevieve Aken's series Great Expectations is inspired by Dickens iconic novel of the same title. "Society today, especially in Africa, places a huge emphasis on marriage as an institution and this leads to pressures and stress on a lot of women some of whom are successful but yet feel unfulfilled until married. Happiness, love, friendship are all after thoughts. Marriage first." Jenevieve immersed herself and reinterpreted this story in contemporary Africa-Nigeria society through self-portraiture.

Great Expectations by Jenevieve Akens

Great Expectations by Jenevieve Akens

Great Expectations by Jenevieve Akens

Great Expectations by Jenevieve Akens

My favorite collection was by Andile Buka from South Africa who's portrait series Sartist Sport takes a more comical approach to identity.  It was created as a result of wanting to challenge previous edifice ideas of what it means to be black or African in modern society.  The project started as the untold story about urban black sports culture and black identity. It highlights South African athletes, people who went through difficult circumstances, the remnants of colonialism and apartheid when sports were seen as a novelty for black people, a "white man's" activity. The series was to challenge previously conceived ideas of South African black culture that have social and cultural impacts using clothes that were seen only being worn by white people.

Satirist Sports by Andile Buka

Satirist Sports by Andile Buka

Other exhibiting artists include Joana Choumali (Cote d'Ivoire), Colin Delfosse (Belgium), Logo Olumuyiwa (Nigeria), and Nobukho Nqaba (South Africa).

Photography was initially used in Africa to engage audiences with a place that at the time was a complete fantasy. African art, objects, dress, people, and lifestyles were photographed as a means to inform us of the otherness of Africa.  These fantasies of Africa, based on very real objects, artwork, and peoples in the past, were the foundation introduction to a continent of 54 independent countries and more than 3,000 ethnic groups. Today, the concept of fantasy is reclaimed and repurposed to narrate stories and engage viewers in innovative ways.

Curated by art historian and artist Chika Okeke-Agula, she said "Folks can't seem to come to terms with the fact that African artists have now taken and secured their seat at the dinner table invited or not.  With works of art from Africa receiving long deserved acclaim from museums, curators, and collectors, finding these places on the map becomes a prerequisite for us to be allowed to sit at the table with them.  As we begin to develop our understanding of art created on the continent beyond the antiquated, overarching, and superficial title of 'African art', we seek additional information that gives us clues about society religion, and love in African countries."

The show is on exhibit from March 17 - April 8th at Rush Arts Gallery, 526 West 26th Street, Suite 311 NYC


Black History Art: Malick Sidibé

Kali Abdullah


Malick Sidibé (born in 1936) is a Malian photographer noted for his black-and-white images chronicling the exuberant lives and pop culture, often of youth during the 1960s and 70s in Bamako.  His work documents a transitional moment as Mali gained its independence and transformed from a French colony steeped in tradition to a more modern independent country looking toward the West. He captured candid images in the streets, nightclubs, and sporting events and ran a formal portrait studio.

Malik Sidibé 1.jpg
Malik Portraits 2.jpg

Malick Sidibé is a generation behind Seydou Keïta and I’d like to think that he was influenced by Keïta’s photography.  Similar to Keïta, Sidibé was a studio photographer known for his black-and-white portraits, but what set him apart is the sense of youthful pride and fun captured in the photographs. He enjoyed using the studio as a way to pretend and create new lives for his subjects. Also people enjoyed coming to his studio because unlike the others he had electricity, which was a luxury at the time. When talking about his studio portraits he states in an interview:

“As a rule, when I was working in the studio, I did a lot of the positioning. As I have a background in drawing, I was able to set up certain positions in my portraits. I didn’t want my subjects to look like mummies. I would give them positions that brought something alive in them. When you look at my photos, you are seeing a photo that seems to move before your eyes. Those are the sort of poses I gave them. Not poses that were inert or lifeless. No. People who have life need to be positioned that way. It was quite different at my studio. It was like a place of make-believe. People would pretend to be riding motorbikes, racing against each other. It was not like that at the other studios. That’s why my studio was so popular, already by 1964, 1965. The studio was a lot more laid back.”


I was first introduced to Malick Sidibé in 1997 when Janet Jackson put out the “Got ‘til It’s Gone” song featuring Q-Tip and Joni Mitchell.  The music video, directed by Mark Romanek used African photography as a motif, creating what he called a "pre-Apartheid celebration based on that African photography."   The video wanders a massive house party and includes scenes inspired by the work of photographer Malick Sidibé. After falling in love with the video and being an aspiring photographer at the time I dove deep into finding out what Sidibé was all about. I love how Sidibé captured the essence of that time period and the sixties and seventies fashion.  It gave me a whole new perception of African culture, which before then I thought was very traditional and tribal.

Joni Mitchell, Janet Jackson & Mark Romanek discuss the Music Video "Got 'Till It's Gone" Includes music video by Janet Jackson w/Q-Tip and Joni Mitchell - "Got 'Til It's Gone" (Def Radio Mix). (C) Virgin Records. Directed by Mark Romanek. From the album "The Velvet Rope"

I also learned that Malick Sidibé was like the original club photographer in Bamako (days before social media).  In an interview with he states:

“At night, from midnight to 4 am or 6 am, I went from one party to another. I could go to four different parties. If there were only two, it was like having a rest. But if there were four, you couldn't miss any. If you were given four invitations, you had to go. You couldn't miss them.  I'd leave one place, I'd take 36 shots here, 36 shots there, and then 36 somewhere else, until the morning. Sometimes I would come back to parties where there had been a lot of people.  Afterwards I had to develop the photos and print them out. Sometimes, right up to 6 in the morning, I would be at the enlarger. For the 6 x 6 films there was a contact printer, but the 24 x 36 had to be enlarged.  You could work in the morning, but, by Tuesday, the photos had to be ready for display. The proofs were pinned up outside my studio. Lots of people would come and point themselves out. ‘Look at me there! I danced with so-and-so! Can you see me there?’  Even if they didn't buy the photo, they would show it to their friends. That was enough for them. They had danced with a certain girl, and that was enough. I wasn't happy, though. I wanted them to buy these photos!”

The true hustle of a photographer hahah.

Sidibé’s work has been exhibited extensively.  His photos are in numerous public and private collections all over the world and he’s received several honors and awards.  He has become a true inspiration in portrait photography for me especially in men's fashion and style.

In a 2010 interview with John Henley in The Guardian Sidibé explained, “To be a good photographer you need to have a talent to observe, and to know what you want. You have to choose the shapes and the movements that please you, that look beautiful. Equally, you need to be friendly, sympathetic. It's very important to be able to put people at their ease. It's a world, someone's face. When I capture it, I see the future of the world. I believe with my heart and soul in the power of the image, but you also have to be sociable. I'm lucky. It's in my nature."

Malick Sidibé presently resides in Mali.

Black History Art: Seydou Keïta

Kali Abdullah


Seydou Keïta (born  in 1921) was a self-taught portrait photographer from Bamako, Mali. His portraits gained a reputation for excellence throughout West Africa between the1940s and early 1960s. His photos are widely acknowledged not only as a record of Malian society but also as pieces of art.


Keïta developed an interest in photography when his uncle gave him a Kodak Brownie with eight shots of film in 1935, after returning from a trip to Senegal. In the beginning Keïta worked as both a carpenter and photographer, taking first portraits of his family and friends, later of people in the neighborhood. He learned photography and how to develop from Pierre Garnier, a French photographic supply store owner, and from Mountaga Traoré, his mentor. In 1948 he set up his first studio in the family house in Bamako-Koura behind the main prison.

His numerous clients were drawn by the quality of his photos and his great sense of aesthetics. Many were young men, dressed in European style clothing. Some customers brought in items they wanted to be photographed with but Keïta also had a choice of European clothing and accessories (watches, pens, radios, scooters), which he put at their disposal in his studio. The women came in flowing robes often covering their legs, only beginning to wear Western outfits in the late 60s.

Seydou Keïta worked primarily with daylight and for economic reasons took only a single shot for each picture.

I learned about Seydou Keïta through my interest in another African photographer Malick Sidibé (I will do a whole post on him tomorrow).  It is said that Seydou Keïta was discovered in the West in the 1990s. His first solo exhibition took place in 1994 in Paris at the Fondation Cartier. This was followed by many others exhibits in various museums, galleries and foundations worldwide. He is now universally recognized as the father of African photography and considered one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century.

“It’s easy to take a photo, but what really made a difference was that I always knew how to find the right position, and I never was wrong. Their head slightly turned, a serious face, the position of the hands... I was capable of making someone look really good. The photos were always very good. That’s why I always say that it’s a real art.”

Seydou Keïta died November 21, 2001 in Paris, France.