Earliest Photographic Archives of Abdourahmane Sakaly [1958-1961]

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.

The Sakaly Collection contains digital images of photographs and negatives taken by Abdourahmane Sakaly during the 20th century. His archives contain studio portraiture and photo documentation of social events and private functions for military and police officers and other elites in Bamako, as well as class pictures for school children.