Malick Sidibé was a Malian photographer noted for his black-and-white photos of popular culture in the 1960s in Mali’s capital Bamako. During his life, Sidibé gained an international reputation and along with late compatriot Seydou Keïta, was considered to be Mali’s most famous photographer.
Sidibé is also celebrated for using his black-and-white images to chronicle the lives and culture of Bamako specifically in the wake of Mali’s independence in 1960. It was this political use of his skills that makes many believe that Sidibé’s work was essential to the post-colonial awakening that swept Africa during his time.
Some of his best known works include: Nuit de Noel (1963), Regardez-moi (1962), and Soiree entre amis (1964),.
In 1995, the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain presented the first solo exhibition of Sidibé’s work outside of the African continent. After the artist’s death on April 14, 2016, the Fondation Cartier again paid tribute to him with Mali Twist, a large retrospective exhibition accompanied by a catalogue which ran from October 20, 2017 to February 25, 2018. The exhibition presented a vast collection of Sidibé’s lesser known vintage photographs and portraits for the first time, from the artist’s archives, along with already seen iconic works. The brains behind the exhibition André Magnin, in collaboration with Brigitte Ollier.
This Spectacular collection of black-and-white photographs provided an immersive insight into the life of the man who was nicknamed ‘the eye of Bamako.” The photographs revealed Malick Sidibé’s capacity, from 1960-1990, to grasp the vitality of the youth of Bamako and impose his unique style, which is recognized today throughout the world.
Undeniably, Sidibé has influenced many, so it was no surprise that other Malian artists, such as the musicians Salif Keita and Ali Farka Touré, who both routinely sang of the time Sidibé captured, also came to international attention in the 90s close to the same moment Malian photography was being recognized.
Similarly, the Grammy award-winning video of Janet Jackson’s 1997 song “Got ’til It’s Gone” is strongly indebted to the photographic style of Sidibé, as the video pays tribute to the period just after the French Sudan and Mali had gained their independence from France that Sidibé’s pictures had helped to document.
More recently, Sidibé’s influence can be seen directly through Inna Modja’s 2015 video for her song ‘Tombouctou’, which was filmed in Sidibé’s photography studio at Studio Malick.
“I knew Malick, I grew up going to his studio.” she said at a sit-down win Pin-Africa. “The first picture that he took of me, I was 4 years old, and the last one was a year before he died.”
“And he is someone who empowers you, when you are in front of his camera you really feel special.”
“And something that is very important when you see his work is women. He really empowers women. You see women being in front, if there is a motorcycle, the woman will be driving, and the man will be on the back. And he will showcase women being beautiful and proud, and that’s really something that is important and that I cherish a lot in his work.”
With such a timeless style with a camera, do not be surprised if more exhibitions around Malick Sidibé’s work pop-up in the years to come.