25 Jan

Dive Into Malick Sidibé’s Enchanting Vision of Mali

The photographer who inspired Beyoncé and Gucci

Written By Sarah Ben Romdane

Born in 1935, in Bamako, Malick Sidibé started shooting in his early 20s and opened Studio Malick in the heart of the capital in 1962.

 

As involved in the social and cultural life of post-independence Bamako, Sidibé became an emblematic figure appreciated by the youth.

 

Malick Sidibé “Un yéyé en position” 1963

 

In the 1960’s, he became the country’s most popular photographer – shooting young Malians dressed in Western clothing at local parties, Sidibé soon discovered underground parties where European and Cuban music was rife.

 

Malick Sidibé, 1969

 

In a new exhibition at Fondation Cartier entitled Mali Twist, a large part of the exhibition is dedicated to those Bamakese nights, which made Malick Sidibé (aka the eye of Bakamo) the country’s most prominent ‘youth reporter’.

 

In these photographs, couples hold each other close and dance to the rabid rhythms of rock n’ roll and afro-Cuban music. His picture Christmas Eve, taken in 1963, was selected by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential photos in history.

 

Malick Sidibé “Nuit de Noël” 1963

 

Numerous prints of the portraits Sidibé shot in his modest studio during the 1960’s and 1970’s are displayed, and culminate in to the biggest collection and exhibition of Sidibé’s work.

 

Malick Sidibé “Les faux agents du FBI” 1974

 

Demonstrating the diversity of Bamako’s society, Sidibé immortalised the hope of the city, all from the comfort of his studio. Fashionistas, children dressed for carnivals, elegant women, classy teenagers – Sidibé captured something spectacular from every subject he chose to shoot, chiefly because he knew exactly how to interact with them.

 

Malick Sidibé “Regardez-moi !” 1962

 

In 1995, Fondation Cartier was responsible for the first exhibition of Sidibé’s work outside of Africa. In 2003, he was the first African photographer to win the Hasselblad Prize, and in 2007, he received the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement Award by the Board of La Biennale di Venezia.

 

Malick Sidibé “Mon chapeau et pattes d’éléphant” 1974

 

Through various immersive installations, the audience is invited to submerge themselves in the high-energy of Bamako nightlife –  guided by a thumping, bespoke soundtrack created for the exhibition.