• Two children in their best clothes climb between the cars in a gridlocked parking lot. In the Bamako market cars are often parked three or four deep, and leaving means waiting for the owners of the cars in front of you to finish shopping. Open image gallery

    Photo / Madeleine Sheldon-Dante

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Photo exhibit provides glimpse of Malian capital


A quest for artists around the world by MIT's Office of the Arts has produced a photo journal from Africa that will temporarily grace the walls of the Rotch Library.

In November, Madeleine Sheldon-Dante '07, traveled to the capital city of Bamako, Mali, in western Africa on an arts-scouting mission for MIT's Office of the Arts with Michele Oshima, director of the office's student and artist-in-residence programs. The primary mission of the trip to Bamako was to attend a biennial exhibition of African photography known as "Rencontres africaines de la photographie."

On their way to and from meetings with photographers, dancers, puppeteers and musicians, Sheldon-Dante, then the coordinator of student programs, found herself snapping digital camera shots of life in the exuberant, if sometimes shabby, city on the Crocodile River.

Twelve of those snapshots have been enlarged, matted and gone on display in the Rotch Library, 7-238 through Sept. 26, providing a glimpse into everyday life in Bamako.

The photo journal show "City on Crocodile River" captures what Sheldon-Dante calls the "in-between moments" during her five days in the city. She captures the strange beauty of a wall of colorful oil drums and the joy of kids creating costumes out of toilet paper or eating the country's favorite fruit -- watermelon.

Sheldon-Dante, 23, who is also a painter, was particularly intrigued by Mali's tradition of "griots," a "praise-singer caste" who follow the famous and the rich composing songs in their honor. Sheldon-Dante and Oshima spoke with a number of these singers and other artists, including puppeteer Yaya Coulibaly.

The Rotch show includes a shot from Coulibaly's studio, plus street scenes and more abstract images that underscore Sheldon-Dante's impressions of Bamako's lively music scene.

Sheldon-Dante, who graduated from MIT with a degree in physics and a minor in creative writing, has now returned to her native Pennsylvania. "I'm a scientist or an artist, depending on when you ask me," she admitted.

In a continued effort to bring Africa to MIT through the arts, the Office of the Arts will bring Ethiopian composer and musician Mulatu Astatke to campus in October, South African photographer Zanele Muholi to campus at the end of February and Malian filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako to campus in April.


Topics: Alumni/ae, Arts, Global

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