The revelation of the 9th Rencontres de Bamako can be found in the Ritual Arts Hall of the National Museum of Mali: Soungalo Malé.
Portraits and studio portraits clearly linked to the history of African photography. Perhaps, yet so different, so revealing of future discoveries waiting to be made, if time remains and the archives haven’t been destroyed.
Soungalo Malé worked in the wild, throughout the country, with a movable studio, traveling from village to village with his little truck. The makeshift backdrop can occasionally be seen behind a couple posing. While the elegant poses and the women’s stately dresses are comparable to the brilliant elements of Seydou Keita’s work, here there remains an element of modesty, a special Sunday suit, a rare moment captured by the photographer for those looking into the lens. Major life ceremonies, for which the subjects selected their fanciest outfits, determined to express their feelings, lovers or family members, turning themselves over to the photographer in this ritual art. It is sublime, beautiful, fragile, and moving. And we want to see more. Because we know each time we will feel that unique sensation that grips you when you are only a few feet away from a venerable masterpiece – not only African – much like a wooden Giacometti holding the tilted head of a Modigliani face. We keep going back, like we will go back again and try to unravel the mysteries veiled within the pure vision of Soungalo Malé’s subjects.