11 May > 26 September 2020
This exhibition is a tribute to the fathers of the photography of French speaking Africa and to the youth of the 1960s, “the twist years”. These photographers are first of all, portraitists, but drawn into a joyful movement of liberation, they left their studio and went through the city in report to capture the atmosphere of the nightlife.
Since the 1950s, Jean Depara went back and forth in the streets of Kinshasa, from bars to clubs, with the sound of rumba, the Afro-Cuban dance. Since 1961, Malick Sidibé followed the youth in the parties of Bamako to capture the twist, a dance imported from United States via Paris. This is no coincidence if, in 2017, two posthumous exhibitions in Paris and Arles were called “Mali twist” and “Swinging Bamako”. The trend of the twist in Bamako can be considered as a surprise in a city that has been celebrating its Independence for a year and that, by mimicking the West, devotes to a music whose structure breaks with African music and jazz.
This mimicry can also be seen in the attitudes and costumes: men quickly adopt the European clothes, followed a little later by women. The decoration uses imported objects, from the Solex to the Beetle. In his studio, Seydou Keita has European accessories: scooters, watches, pens.
In a context of political independence that can only be achieved with the economic and cultural aspects, one can be surprised by this pro-Western mode while the students in Berkeley and the Quartier Latin look at Che Guevara, Mao or Martin Luther King. It must be said that there is a double context: that of African independence which liberates the youth from the Western colonial yoke, and at the same time, in this Western world, a phenomenon of liberation of youth that asserts itself as a socio-cultural category in its own right who, nourished by the thought of Marcuse and the pill, exults in May 1968.
A movement of such great magnitude that defies borders like… the twist!
These photographers assert themselves as artists by vocation, by public favor and by necessity. The silver film, by economy, imposes only one shot and often in the day light. It is therefore necessary to work the framing, the light, the pose wherever we are, but with an arranged decoration. By training, instinct or necessity, the portrait always imposes itself. The face turned a little sideways, the position of the hands and especially the look that must reveal «the image» as Bacon says about the «too true» portrait of the pope by Vélasquez. Seydou Keita, who claims to be an artist, says the same thing: the photographer is «a man’s eater because he takes his «dyaa» or his «vital double».
Through these faces and attitudes, can we grasp with these portraitists, in this time, the soul of this doubly liberated African youth by making allowances of appearance and reality?
Free entrance, Monday to Saturday from 2pm to 6pm.