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Seydou Keïta

SEYDOU KEÏTA WAS SEVENTY-EIGHT years old and long retired when he died last November. His future as an artist lay in his past as the photographer from Bamako, Mali, who managed to portray his subjects with all their dignity, dreams, and fantasies. Thanks to his signature studio technique, his use of props, and his facility with makeup, his work always ensured that his sitters became true Bamakois: bourgeois noblemen and -women, civil servants invested with the authority of the colonial administration. It was only at the end of his career that the world discovered Keita’s images justes and celebrated his artistic genius everywhere—everywhere, that is, except Africa itself. He often complained to me about the lack of respect his photography received in Mali; it was in Europe and the United States that his art was appreciated.

Keïta liked to relate the story of his discovery. In 1977 he

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