HER EYES, THEY NEVER LIE

Black Shade Projects announces their announces their second exhibition, running to coincide with 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, Marrakech. Curated by Lisa Anderson, the show explores the female body within contemporary African art and photography, through the work of Malian photographers Adama Kouyaté (b. 1928) and Abdourahmane Sakaly (1926-1988), alongside the British-Ghanaian contemporary artist Adelaide Damoah (b. 1976).

Contemporaries of Malick Sidibé and Seydou Keïta, Kouyaté and Sakaly bear testament to the wealth of photographic talent emerging from Mali since the mid to late 1900s. With a curatorial focus on women of the era, the works document their rapidly changing political and cultural status, through the trends and cultural contexts of contemporary Mali. Shown alongside a new work from Damoah, and activated through an accompanying performance piece, the exhibition addresses not only the representation of the female figure, but considers them as gatekeepers of culture.

Presented in collaboration with the inaugural edition of AFRƎEculture, a new annual salon celebrating creativity from Africa and its diaspora, the exhibition will be hosted at the boutique hotel Jnane Tamsna in the heart of the Palmeraie in Marrakech.

Portraitist and studio photographer Adama Kouyaté was born in the French Sudanese village of Bougouni and was introduced to photography when he sat with a friend for a studio portrait in Bamako, Mali. This experience inspired him to pursue a career in photography and Kouyaté honed his craft in the city of Bamako where became an apprentice Bakary Doumbia, a well-known studio photographer at the time. In 1949, Adama Kouyaté opened his first studio, “Photo Hall Kati,” in Kati, near Bamako. Following this, Kouyaté travelled across West Africa (over a period of ten years) fleetingly residing in Lomé, Togo, Abidjan and Ouagadougou, to eventually settle in Bouaké, where he established the studio Photo Hall Ivoire. After the 1968 military coup, Kouyaté returned to Mali and set up a studio in Ségou, where he continues to live and work to this day.

Abdourahmane Sakaly, originally from Senegal, moved to Bamako in 1946 where he later opened a studio. Introduced to photography in his youth by one of the fathers of Senegalese photography, Meïssa Gaye (1892-1982), he quickly established the first Bamako studio during the 1960s. Alongside Malick Sidibé and Seydou Keïta, Sakaly was the most renowned photographer working in the city at this time.

His work depicted a modern Mali during a burgeoning Independence. In addition to portraiture, Sakaly documented social events and private functions for military and police officers and other elites in the city, and created class pictures for school children, advertisement prints, and images that documented accidents for the police. Sakaly died in 1988 and his work was largely was rediscovered in 1994 by Revue Noire.