seydou keta: african images


The portraits show modernity and tradition entwined in a complex dialogue with no beginning or end. The ghost of Marie Antoinette hovers over the pleated bodices and ruffled blouses of these gay and pensive beauties, some made of “Dutch wax” fabrics imitating colonial Indonesian designs, which were printed in Manchester for export to Africa. Their “aeroplane wing sleeves” and “coat hanger braids” (as the Bamakois called them) turn up in the breeze; they bear the marks of scarification and of Western affluence with equal pride.

Above all, they live. “My wish is that my negatives will survive for a very long time,” Keta remarked in a late interview. “It is true, my negatives breathe like you and me.”

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