Photographic Archive of Mamadou Cissé [1959-1978]

This collection features digital scans of approximately 27,000 of the oldest and most vulnerable photographic negatives and original prints from the archives of Abdourahmane Sakaly and Mamadou Cissé, among the earliest professional African photographers in Mali, West Africa. Dating between the 1940s and 60s, these important, endangered, archives contain rare visual documentation of traditional life (rural, ethnic-based customs, ceremonies, and artefacts), and processes of urban development. Spanning the eras of French colonialism, political independence, and socialism, these photo archives record important socio-political transformations of present-day Mali and its capital, Bamako, which evolved from a small agrarian trading village into a cosmopolitan city during the twentieth century. Employed by colonial and national governments, while operating private studio enterprises, each collection houses unique archives representing African perspectives of local histories and practices, including personal and family portraiture, military activities, visits of foreign dignitaries, and images of the coup d’état that toppled the regime of the nation’s first president, Modibo Keïta. They also feature the construction of monuments, architectural structures, bridges, dams, roadways, as well as prominent Muslim and animist religious leaders, cultural ceremonies, and fluctuating trends in personal adornment, fashion, and photographic practices during these eras.

Today, Cissé’s archives contain 1,171 negatives documenting traditional rural life and processes of urban development, as well as important socio-political transformations and fluctuating cultural trends from the 1940s-70s in the cities of Bamako, Mopti, and Ségu. When we arrived in November 2011, his collection was the most vulnerable and least organized, with original photographs and negatives piled in dusty heaps inside unlabeled envelopes and boxes. Some were already destroyed, fused together due to high temperatures and poor storage conditions.

1171 6x6cm black-and-white negatives and original prints originally taken by Mamadou Cissé from approximately 1959-1978.