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Perlman Teaching Museum Exhibit Will Showcase Malian Photography

March 22, 2012
By Jacob Cohn '13

Carleton College will present “Photographing the Social Body: Malian Portraiture from the Studio to the Street” in the Kaemmer Family Gallery of the Perlman Teaching Museum, located in the Weitz Center for Creativity. The exhibit, which showcases the vibrant photographic culture of the West African country of Mali, opens Friday, March 30, with a guided tour, a lecture, and an opening reception. The opening events, along with gallery admission, are free and open to the public.

“Photographing the Social Body” opens with a guided gallery tour at 4 p.m. on Friday, March 30, led by Candace Keller, exhibit catalogue author and assistant professor of art history at Michigan State University. A talk by Allison Moore, a professor at the University of South Florida and co-curator of the exhibition, along with Perlman Museum director and College curator Laurel Bradley, will be presented later that evening at 7:30 p.m. in Weitz Center for Creativity Room 235 and will be followed by an opening reception from 8:30 to 10 p.m. in the Perlman Teaching Museum’s Kaemmer Family Gallery. The reception is co-sponsored by Afrisa, the Carleton College African Student Associatio. Additionally, students recently returned from a winter off-campus program in Mali will add to the festivities with dancing and drumming learned while abroad.

“Photographing the Social Body: Malian Portraiture from the Studio to the Street” presents the works by fifteen photographers, many for the first time displayed in the United States. Using a broad definition of portraiture that embraces symbolic nudes, documentary treatments of Malian women and social outcasts, and museological studies of elaborate hairdos, the exhibit investigates creative practices by several generations of photographers.

The idea for the new exhibition came out of Carleton’s long engagement with the West African country of Mali through French and Francophone Cherif Keïta’s popular off-campus studies program (first launched in 2000, 144 students have participated over the course of seven sessions abroad) and evidence of the country’s rich artistic culture. Bradley and Moore traveled to Mali in 2011 and met with a number of prominent photographers there, laying the groundwork for the exhibition.

Commercial photography has a long history in Mali, having been established in the 1930s, and it experienced a boom in the 1960s after independence from France. Malian photography was exposed to the international art scene in the 1990s through the work of portraitists Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé. Their fame led to the creation of the Bamako Photography Biennial, a pan-African photography exhibition, in 1994, which helped lead to the growth of photography institutions in Mali. “Photographing the Social Body” breaks new ground by charting the growth of Malian portraiture over time. In addition to earlier studio photographers, the exhibit will showcase members of a newer generation of artists as well as photojournalists. It will also exhibit works by groundbreaking female artists such as Alima Diop and Fatoumata Diabaté.

“Photographing the Social Body: Malian Portraiture from the Studio to the Street” will be on display in the Kaemmer Family Gallery of the Perlman Teaching Museum through May 8, 2012. For more information, including disability accommodations, contact Laurel Bradley at (507) 222-4342 or visit online at The Weitz Center for Creativity is located at 320 Third Street East in Northfield. Hours for the Perlman Teaching Museum are: Monday-Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday-Friday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Saturday-Sunday, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Enter the Perlman Teaching Museum, Weitz Center for Creativity, at Third and College Streets.