Malian born Malick Sidibé was an iconic photographer who captured the vibrant energy of Bamako in the 60s. Originally, Sidibé was a painter but after assisting photographer Gérard Guillat, he decided a camera was a more gratifying tool.
“He had seen me with a paintbrush, so when he asked me if I wanted to become a photographer, I didn’t hesitate. I leapt on it straightaway, on photography. I was used to working with pictures. I found that the camera was a lot faster than a paintbrush. So I threw myself into photography and that’s how I became a photographer.”
As Sidibé continued his work under Gérard Guillat, he was assigned the African events while Guillat covered the European events. Due to Sidibé’s agility with his small film camera and flash, he quickly found himself in demand to cover as many parties in Bamako as possible. Wherever there was music and dancing, Sidibé was prepared to capture young love and the freedom that ensued. His work was intrinsically related to music, even in the studio, his subjects seem to move.
“I have to tell you, music liberated African youth from the taboo of being with a woman. They were able to get close to each other, which is why I was always invited to these parties. I had to go in order to record these moments, when a young man could dance with a young woman close up. We were not used to it.
They liked seeing themselves dancing with a woman, even if she wasn’t their girlfriend. They could tell their friends that they had got her, that she was theirs now… It was a very powerful moment for young Malian men to see themselves dancing with a girl. That didn’t exist before.”
“No African artist has done more to enhance photography’s stature in the region, contribute to its history, enrich its image archive or increase our awareness of the textures and transformations of African culture in the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st than Malick Sidibé.” -Robert Storr
As Sidibé continued his work throughout the 60s and 70s, he wasn’t internationally recognized until the late 1980s. He won the Venice Biennale in 2007 and passed away in 2016.
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