African Photographers and the Iconic Portraits of Black Women

Malick Sidibe, J. D. Ojeikere and Seydou Keïta paved the way.

 

Throughout history, black women’s stories have been told through the lens of people who may have only preferred to paint one side of their story, that of struggle and othering.

I countlessly draw inspiration from those who came before me, even when I started Mzansi Moodboard back then, strongly emphasizing that I(we) needed this platform as a constant reminder of black girl magic and how interwoven many of our stories are.
Photography is one of my favourite mediums of storytelling and one that late icons Malian photographer Malick Sidibé(1935-2016), Nigeria’s portrait king J. D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere(1930-2014) and Mali native Seydou Keïta(1921- 2001) paved the way for in terms of Africans documenting the creativity and extravagance of their aesthetic beauty.

The significance of the above-mentioned photographers’ archival work is that aside from beguiling appeal, they are somewhat set against the colonial backdrop of Africa and the gaze– where retaining culture, by all means, was an almost essential channel of survival and perhaps a prime reason for celebrating what we could call ours – not just the kente fabric and elaborately tied headdresses.
Perhaps you may be familiar with the work of Sidibé, Ojeikere, and Keita thus, you’ll be able to tell that these icons have inspired some of our faves – one can draw clear parallels from their work and those of young artists today; Tony Gum, Trevor StuurmanMahaneela and Joshua Kissi come to mind to name but a few as well as Nadine Ijewere and Tyler Mitchell (the first people of colour to photograph Vogue Magazine covers – IT WAS ABOUT TIME).
These portraits echo the sentiment that Africans are the original innovators, a contribution to stories of Africa and the diaspora and lasting records of our ingenuity. Black women in all their precious glory. What are you(we) doing to tell our stories and how will the history books depict our generations’ words and songs and pictures? It’s up to us to do the work, making sure that melanin magic lives on every page we turn and every billboard we see and give a nod to the aesthetic originators of the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Malick Sidibé 

Malick Sidibé
Malick Sidibé
Malick Sidibé

 

  Seydou Keïta

Seydou Keïta
Seydou Keïta
Seydou Keïta

 

J. D. Ojeikere

Ojeikere
Ojeikere
Ojeikere

Palesa

Creative Visual Expressionist.