Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Global Studies in the Arts and Humanities
Candace Keller
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Candace Keller


Degree: Ph.D., African Art, Indiana University

Position: Assistant Professor of African Art, Art History & Visual Culture

Office: 324 Kresge Art Center

Phone: (517) 353-1599

Email: kellercm@msu.edu

Personal Statement

Since 2001, I have been engaged in a socio-historical study of the meaning, function, and aesthetic significance of photographs in Mali, West Africa, from the 19th to the 21st centuries. Spanning the dynamic periods of colonialism, national independence, socialism, and democracy my work centers on the studio and documentary work of professional urban photographers. Although I incorporate more than seventy photographers within my research, I concentrate on those who have been particularly influential in the local development and practice of the medium as well as its international popularization and active participation in the contemporary art market. For example, forming the core of my analyses is internationally renowned artist Malick Sidibé, who is the first African photographer to have received the prestigious Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography in 2003 as well as the Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement accolade at the 2007Venice biennale.

Addressing the power art, culture, and aesthetics hold in international contexts, my academic research and university courses center on issues of identity, personhood, and complex agency, as well as processes of transculturation, globalization, nationalism, and postcolonialism.


“Visual Griots: Identity, Invention, and Style, One Important Aspect of the Social Role of Portrait Photographers in Mali.” Forthcoming, in Portraiture in African Worlds, eds. Elizabeth Cameron and John Peffer. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012.

“Gologo, Mamadou El Bashir.” Forthcoming in Dictionary of African Biography, eds. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Emmanuel Akyeampong. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

“Transculturated Displays: International Fashion and West African Portraiture.” Forthcoming, in African Dress Encounters: Fashion, Agency, Power, eds. Karen Tranberg Hansen and Soyini  Madison.Chicago:UniversityofChicagoPress, 2010.

Review of Life & Afterlife in Benin edited by Alex Van Gelder and Travelling Light by Paul Weinberg. African Arts 30 (Summer 2006): 12, 83-85, 88. 


Mopti à la Mode: Portrait Photographs by Tijani Sitou. Indiana University Art Museum, March28-May 20, 2007 and Michigan State University R.C.A.H. Look Out! Gallery, March 30-April 28, 2009.

Regardez-moi!: Portraits by Malick Sidibé. San Diego State University Art Gallery, November 10-December 6, 2008.

Invited Lectures

Ja Ta: The Power of Photography inMali.”  Columbia University, New York, March 4, 2010.

“Visualizing Identity: Photographs by Malick Sidibé.”  San Diego State University, November 21, 2008.

“The Visualized Self: Agency, Aesthetics, and Portrait Photography inMali.” University of California, Los Angeles, March 7, 2007.

“Visual Griots: Identity, Invention and Style: The Social Role of Portrait Photographers in Mali.” University of California, Santa Cruz, February 3-4, 2006.