Archives of beauty and pain: A century of African women in photos

Two Young Yé-Yé Girls with Sunglasses, 1965, Abdourahmane Sakaly, Mali [Courtesy of the Estate of Abdourahmane Sakaly, Bamako, Mali and Revue Noire, Paris/The McKinley Collection]

Catherine E McKinley’s African Lookbook is a window into the rich history of African photography – and the women who were at the centre of the frame.

The mother and daughter tilt their heads, one towards the other. Their hair is intricately braided, woven with beads, and covered with a carefully knotted wrap. The young girl sits on her mother’s lap; the mother’s hand, with its visible wedding band, is placed firmly upon her daughter’s, and perfectly to call attention to the girl’s wide cuff bracelet.

The sitters for this photo, circa the 1950s, by Malian photographer Barthelely Koné, wear empire-waist dresses cut of densely patterned African cloth, their fashion a little African, a little European. The mother’s face is serene, open. Her slightly lowered eyes meet the viewer’s, the daughter’s even more directly.

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