Malick Sidibé

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Malick Sidibé
Soloba, Mali
DiedApril 14, 2016(2016-04-14) (aged 80–81)
Bamako, Mali
Alma materInstitut National des Arts de Bamako

Malick Sidibé (1935 – April 14, 2016)[1][2] was a Malian photographer noted for his black-and-white studies of popular culture in the 1960s in Bamako.[1][3][4] During his life, Sidibé gained an international reputation and was considered, along with Seydou Keïta, to be Mali's most famous photographer.[5]

His work was the subject of a number of publications and exhibited throughout Europe and the United States. In 2007, he received a Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement at Venice Biennale,[6] becoming both the first photographer[4] and the first African so recognized.[7] Other awards he received included a Hasselblad Award for photography,[8] an International Center of Photography Infinity Award for Lifetime Achievement,[9] and a World Press Photo award.[10] Sidibé's work is held in the collections of The Contemporary African Art Collection (CAAC),[11] the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles,[12] and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.[13]

Life and work[edit]

Sidibé's studio in Bamako showing his cameras and equipment

Sidibé was born in the village of Soloba, 300 km from Bamako, in Mali. From the age of five or six, he began herding animals and working the land. He became the first member of his family to attend school after he was chosen by the village chief to be sent to the white school in Yanfolila for an education.[5] During his first year he became interested in art and by high school, he was doing drawings for official events. It was his skill in charcoal drawings that drew much attention to his talent and led to his selection for the Institut National des Arts de Bamako in the capital city of Bamako.[5] While at this school, he was noticed by photographer Gérard Guillat-Guignard, who became a mentor and from whom, through close observation and practice, Sidibé learned the craft of photography.[5]

In 1952 Sidibé moved to Bamako. In 1955, he undertook an apprenticeship at Guillat-Guignard's Photo Service Boutique, also known as Gégé la pellicule. In 1956 he bought his first camera, a Brownie Flash, and in 1957 became a full-time photographer, opening his own studio (Studio Malick) in Bamako in 1958. He specialized in documentary photography, focusing particularly on the youth culture of the Malian capital.[14] Sidibé took photographs at sport events, the beach, nightclubs, concerts, and even tagged along while the young men seduced girls.[3][7] He increasingly became noted for his black-and-white studies of popular culture in the 1960s in Bamako. In the 1970s, Sidibé turned towards the making of studio portraits. His background in drawing became useful:

As a rule, when I was working in the studio, I did a lot of the positioning. As I have a background in drawing, I was able to set up certain positions in my portraits. I didn't want my subjects to look like mummies. I would give them positions that brought something alive in them.[9]

Sidibé was discovered for an international audience thanks to the photographer Françoise Huguier, who worked with André Magnin, a curator who had been sent to West Africa by a French collector, Jean Pigozzi, in the 1990s.[5] One of the best known of Sidibé's works from that time is Nuit de Noel, Happy Club (Christmas Eve, Happy Club) (1963), depicting a smiling couple — the man in a suit, the woman in a Western party dress (but barefoot) and both dancing, presumably, to music.[14] And it was images like these that revealed how Sidibé's photographic style was inextricably linked to music. This connection is something that Sidibé had spoken about during interviews, over the years.[15]

"We were entering a new era, and people wanted to dance. Music freed us. Suddenly, young men could get close to young women, hold them in their hands. Before, it was not allowed. And everyone wanted to be photographed dancing up close."[4]

It is perhaps no surprise that other Malian artists, such as the musicians Salif Keita and Ali Farka Touré, also came to international attention in the 1990s at almost the same moment as Malian photography was being recognized.[16][17]

"Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, in graphic, vigorous, black-and-white pictures, Sidibé captured the dynamism and joy of a rapidly changing West Africa. In particular, he honed in on the vernaculars of style: the brash suits, the purposefully clashing prints, the girls pairing their headdresses with their cat-eye shades, the little kids in full tribal costume and face paint, the dancers kicking off their shoes. The party, the club, the dance floor—these were his settings, the places where people came to be seen and dressed the part. From midnight till dawn, Sidibé roamed the city, party-hopping, shooting hundreds of frames every weekend."[18]

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,[19] and the video pays tribute to a particular time (during the 1960s and 70s)[20][21] that Sidibé's pictures had helped to document. This was the time period just after the French Sudan (and then the Mali Federation) had gained their Independence from France in 1960.[22] This new era (post-1960) has, subsequently, been characterized by various observers as a post-colonial (and post-apartheid) awakening of consciousness. Many of those who admire Sidibé's work believe that he somehow captured the joy and wonder of this awakening, and that it is seen in the faces, scenes, and images that he helped to illuminate.[15][23][24] More recently, Sidibé's influence can be seen directly through Inna Modja’s 2015 video for her song "Tombouctou,"[3][24] as it was filmed in Sidibé's photography studio.

In 2006, Tigerlily Films made a documentary entitled Dolce Vita Africana about Sidibé, filming him at work in his studio in Bamako, having a reunion with many of his friends (and former photographic subjects) from his younger days, and speaking to him about his work.[25]

Sidibé became the first African and the first photographer to be awarded the Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale in 2007. Robert Storr, the show's artistic director, said:

Sidibé died[20] of complications from diabetes in Bamako.[4][26] He was survived by 17 children and three wives.[27]


Publications by Sidibé[edit]

  • Malick Sidibé. Zurich; New York: Scalo, 1998. ISBN 9783931141936. Edited by André Magnin. With an introduction by Magnin, and essays by Sibidé ("Studio Malick"), Youssouf Doumbia, ("Ambiance totale avec Garrincha!"), Panka Dembelé ("Twist again!"), and Boubacar 'Kar Kar' Traoré ("Elvis est vivant!"). Included a four-song music CD by Kar Kar.
  • Malick Sidibé, Photographe: "vues de dos" photographies. Carnets de la création, Mali. Montreal: Editions de l'oeil, 2001. ISBN 9782912415189. With a text by Amadou Chab Touré. 24 pages.
  • Malick Sidibe: Photographs: the Hasselblad Award 2003. Göteborg, Sweden: Hasselblad Center; Göttingen: Steidl, 2003. ISBN 9783882439731. With a foreword by Gunilla Knape, an essay by Manthia Diawara, "The 1960s in Bamako: Malick Sidibé and James Brown", and a transcript of an interview with Sidibé by André Magnin. Published on the occasion of the exhibition Malick Sidibé: 2003 Hasselblad Award Winner held at the Hasselblad Center, Göteborg, Sweden, 2003.[28]
  • Malick Sidibé: Chemises. Göttingen: Steidl, 2007. ISBN 9783865215239. Catalog of an exhibition presented at Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam and at Musée Nicệphore Niépce, Chalon-sur-Saône.[29]
  • Malick Sidibe. Wilsele, Belgium: Exhibitions International, 2008. By Foundation Zinsou. ISBN 978-9057791048.
  • Bagadadji. Saint-Brieuc, France: GwinZegal, 2008. ISBN 9782952809924. With an essay by Florian Ebner, "La scène de Bagadadji". Portraits of the inhabitants of Bagadadji, Bamako, taken between 1964 and 1976.
    • English-language version.
    • French-language version.
    • German-language version.
  • Perception. Saint-Brieuc, France: GwinZegal, 2008. ISBN 9782952809955. In French. Studio portraits made in Britany, France, over the course of three weeks in July 2006.
  • Malick Sidibé: La Vie en Rose. Milan: Silvana, 2010. Edited and with text by Laura Incardona and Laura Serani. ISBN 978-8836617166.
  • Malick Sidibé: The Portrait of Mali (Sinetica Landscape). Milan: Skira, 2011. Edited By Laura Incardona, Laura Serani, and Sabrina Zannier. ISBN 978-8857211251. Text in English, French and Italian.
  • Malick Sidibé: Au village. Montreuil, France: Éditions de L'Œil, 2011. ISBN 978-2351371329. Text by Brigitte Ollier. Studio portraits taken in Sidibé's native village of Soloba over the course of 50 years. In French.
  • Malick Sidibé. fr:Photo Poche No. 145. Arles, France: fr:Actes Sud, 2013. ISBN 978-2-330-01229-8. With an introduction by Laura Serani.

Publications with contributions by Sidibé[edit]

  • Photographes de Bamako: de 1935 à nos jours. Collection Soleil. Paris: Revue Noire, 1989. ISBN 978-2909571218. Photographs by Sidibé, Mountaga Dembélé, Seydou Keïta, Félix Diallo, Sakaly, AMAP, Alioune Bâ, Emmanuel Daou, Abdourahmane Sakaly, and others. With a text by Érika Nimis. In French and English.
  • In/sight: African Photographers, 1940 to the Present. New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1996. ISBN 9780810968950. With an introduction by Clare Bell and essays by Okwui Enwezor, Olu Oguibe, and Octavio Zaya. Photographs by Sidibé, Cornélius Yao Azaglo Augustt, Oladélé Ajiboyé Bamgboyé, Zarina Bhimji, Gordon Bleach, Nabil Boutros, Cloete Breytenbach, Salla Casset, Mody Sory Diallo, Mohammed Dib, Kamel Dridi, Touhami Ennadre, Mathew Faji, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Samuel Fosso, Jellel Gasteli, Meïssa Gaye, Christian Gbagbo, David Goldblatt, Bob Gosani, Ranjith Kally, Seydou Keita, Peter Magubane, Santu Mofokeng, G.R. Naidoo, Lamia Naji, Gopal Naransamy, Lionel Oostendorp, Ricardo Rangel, and Iké Udé. Catalogue of an exhibition held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, May–September, 1996.
  • Clubs of Bamako: 9 March-16 April 2000. Houston, TX: Rice University Art Gallery, 2000. OCLC 45496053. Photographs by Sidibé, Emile Guebehi, Koffi Kouakou, and Coulibaly Siaka Paul. Catalogue of an exhibition.
  • You Look Beautiful Like That: The Portrait – Photographs of Seydou Keita and Malick Sidibe. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001. ISBN 978-0300091885. Edited by Michelle Lamuniere.
  • Samuel Fosso, Seydou Keïta, Malick Sidibé: Portraits of Pride: West African Portrait Photography. Katalog / Moderna Museet 318. Stockholm: Moderna Museet; Raster-Förl, 2002. ISBN 978-9171006776. Photographs by Sibidé, Samuel Fosso, and Seydou Keïta. Catalogue of an exhibition held at Moderna Museet, Stockholm, September–October 2002; Norskt Fotomuseum, March–April 2003. In Swedish and English.
  • African Art Now: Masterpieces From the Jean Pigozzi Collection. London; New York: Merrell, 2005. ISBN 978-0890902950. By André Magnin, Alison de Lima Greene, Alvia J. Wardlaw, and Thomas McEvilley. Paintings, photographs, sculpture and installation art by 33 artists. Catalogue of an exhibition of work from The Contemporary African Art Collection held at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
  • The Poetics of Cloth: African Textiles, Recent Art. New York: Grey Art Gallery, New York University, 2008. ISBN 9780615220833. Edited by Lynn Gumpert. With essays by Kofi Anyidoho, Lynn Gumpert, and John Picton, and contributions by Jennifer S. Brown, Lydie Diakhaté, Janet Goldner, Lynn Gumpert, John Picton, and Doran H. Ross. Reproductions of paintings, sculptures, videos and photographs by Sidibé, El Anatsui, Samuel Cophis, Viye Diba, Sokari Douglas Camp, Groupe Bogolan Kasobane, Abdoulaye Konate, Rachid Koraichi, Atta Kwami, Grace Ndiritu, Nike Okundaye, Owusu-Ankomah, Yinka Shonibare, Nontsikelelo "Lolo" Veleko, Rikki Wemega-Kwawu, and Sue Williamson. "Published on the occasion of an exhibition held at Grey Art Gallery, Sept. 16-Dec. 6, 2008."[30]
  • Events of the Self: Portraiture and Social Identity: Contemporary African Photography from the Walther Collection. Burlafingen, Germany: The Walther Collection; Göttingen, Germany: Steidl, 2010. ISBN 9783869301570. Edited by Okwui Enwezor. With texts by Willis E. Hartshorn and Artur Walther, Okwui Enwezor, Gabriele Conrath-Scholl, Virginia Heckert, Chika Okeke-Agulu, Deborah Willis ("Malick Sidibé´: the front of the back view"), Santu Mofokeng, and Kobena Mercer. Photographs by Sibidé, Sammy Baloji, Oladélé Ajiboyé Bamgboyé, Yto Barrada, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Candice Breitz, Allan deSouza, Theo Eshetu, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Samuel Fosso, David Goldblatt, Kay Hassan, Romuald Hazoumè, Pieter Hugo, Seydou Keïta, Maha Maamoun, Boubacar Touré Mandémory, Salem Mekuria, Santu Mofokeng, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Zanele Muholi, James Muriuku, Ingrid Mwangi, Grace Ndiritu, J.D. 'Okhai Ojeikere, Jo Ractliffe, August Sander, Berni Searle, Mikhael Subotzky, Guy Tillim, Hentie van der Merwe, and Nontsikelelo Veleko. In English with German translation. Published to accompany an exhibition in Burlafingen, Germany, June 2010.
  • Everything was Moving: Photography from the 60s and 70s. London: Barbican Art Gallery, 2012. ISBN 9780946372393. Edited by Kate Bush and Gerry Badger. With texts by Bush ("Everything was moving"), Badger ("Spirit of the times, spirit of place: a view of photography in the 1960s and 1970s"), Gavin Jantjes ("Ernest Cole"), Sean O'Hagan ("The unreal everyday: William Eggleston's America" and "Against detachment: Bruce Davidson's photographs of America during the Civil Rights Era"), Tanya Barson ("Graciela Iturbide: a matter of complicity"), T.J. Demos ("On Sigmar Polke's Der Bärenkampf"), Helen Petrovsky ("Boris Mikhailov: towards a new universality"), Boris Mikhailov ("Yesterday's sandwich"), Ian Jeffrey ("Shomei Tomatsu"), Julian Stallabrass ("Rather a hawk?: the photography of Larry Burrows"), Robert Pledge ("Li Zhensheng: the cinematographer behind the photographer"), Manthia Diawara ("The sixties in Bamako: Malick Sidibé and James Brown"), Shanay Jhaveri ("Raghubir Singh and the geographical culture of India"), and Raghubir Singh ("River of colour: an Indian view"). Photographs by Sidibé, David Goldblatt, Ernest Cole, William Eggleston, Bruce Davidson, Graciela Iturbide, Sigmar Polke, Boris Mikhailov, Shomei Tomatsu, Larry Burrows, Li Zhensheng, and Raghubir Singh. Published on the occasion of the exhibition Everything was Moving: Photography from the 60s and 70s, curated by Kate Bush, September 2012-January 2013 at Barbican Art Gallery, Barbican Centre, London.
  • Malian Portrait Photography. New Platz, New York: Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, 2013. ISBN 9780615510941. Photographs by Sidibé and Seydou Keïta, El Hadj Hamidou Maïga, Abdourahmane Sakaly, and El Hadj Tijani Àdìgún Sitou. With text by Daniel Leers. "Published on the occasion of the exhibition Malian Portrait Photography on display from January 23-April 14, 2013 in the North Gallery of the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at the State University of New York at New Paltz."[31]
  • Afriphoto II. Collection Afriphoto, Vol. 5-8. Trézélan: Filigranes, 2005. ISBN 9782350460079. Vol. 5 is by Sidibé, vol. 6 is by Bill Akwa Bétotè, vol. 7 is by Omar D, and vol. 8 is by Fouad Hamza Tibin and Mohamed Yahia Issa. Edited by Corinne Julien. With texts by Guy Hersant, Jacques Matinet, and Claude Iverné. In French.

Publications about Sidibé[edit]

  • Retrats de l'Anima: Fotografia Africana. Barcelona: La Caixa Foundation, 1997. OCLC 50666491. By Sélim Benattiam, Cristina de Borbón, and Rosa Casamada. In Catalan and English. An exhibition catalogue. With a contribution by Mounira Khemir, "De una Punta a otra de Africa. Impresionas Fotograficas".
  • The 1960s in Bamako: Malick Sidibé and James Brown. Paper Series on the Arts, Culture, and Society, Paper No. 11. By Manthia Diawara. New York: Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, 2001. OCLC 47999579. About Sidibé and James Brown.[n 1]
  • Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noire, Vol. 4, No. 2/3. New York: New York University, 2002. Included an essay by Manthia Diawara, The 1960s in Bamako: Malick Sidibé and James Brown.
  • Black Cultural Traffic: Crossroads in Global Performance and Popular Culture. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2005. Edited by Harry J. Elam, Jr., and Kennell Jackson Jr. ISBN 9780472025459. Includes a chapter by Manthia Diawara, "The 1960s in Bamako: Malick Sidibé and James Brown."



Sidibé's negative collection, in his studio in Bamako

Sidibé's work is held in the following public collections:


Solo exhibitions[edit]

Group exhibitions and festivals[edit]

Film and television appearances[edit]

  • Malick Sidibé: portrait of the artist as a portraitist (2006). OCLC 68907552. Directed by Susan Vogel for the National Museum of Mali / Prince Street Pictures. Produced by Vogel, Samuel Sidbe, and Catherine de Clippel. Interview with Sidibé by Jean-Paul Colleyn. In French with English subtitles.
  • Dolce Vita Africana (2008, Tigerlily Films). 62 mins. Directed by Cosima Spender. Produced by Natasha Dack, Nikki Parrott, and Spender. A documentary about Sidibé, and about Malian history as told through people he photographed. In Bamanankan and French. The film was shown as part of BBC4's Storyville series in March 2008.
  • Malick Sidibé, le Partage (2013, P.O.M. Films; Éditions de L'Œil, ADAV). 52 mins. DVD and brochure. Film by Thomas Glaser, text by Gaël Teicher. ISBN 9782351371558. The film is in French with French and English subtitles, and the text is in French.



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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]