Malick Sidibé

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Malick Sidibé (born 1935 or 1936) is a Malian photographer noted for his black-and-white studies of popular culture in the 1960s in Bamako.

Early life[edit]

Sidibé was born in Bamako, Mali. He was a peasant child who raised animals. From the age of five or six he began herding animals and working the land. When the time came he was chosen to be sent to the white school for an education. During his first year he became interested in art and by high school he was doing drawings for official events. The Major admired his talent and selected him to go to the School of Sudanese Craftsmen in the capital Bamako. It was at this school where Sidibé was approached by a photographer and learned the skills which he would pursue for the rest of his life.


In 1955, he undertook an apprenticeship at Gérard 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.[1] Sidibé took photographs at sport events, the beach, nightclubs, concerts, and even tagged along while the young men seduced girls. He increasingly became noted for his black-and-white studies of popular culture in the 1960s in Bamako. Musicians like Salif Keita and Ali Farka Touré came to international attention in the 1990s, at almost the same moment as Malian photography was being recognized.[2] One of the best known of Sidibé's works from that time is Nuit de Noel, Happy Club (Christmas Eve, Happy Club) (1963), in which a smiling couple — the man in a suit, the woman in a Western party dress, but barefoot.[3]

In the 1970s, Sidibé turned towards the making of studio portraits. His background in drawing became useful in a way that he was able to position people so they still appeared alive in photos rather than mummie like. People enjoyed the studio, it was different than others and had electricity which was a luxury at the time. Sidibé was able to increase his reputation through the first meetings on African photography in Mali in 1994.

Collections and exhibitions[edit]

His work is now exhibited in Europe (for example, the Fondation Cartier in Paris), the United States and Japan. Many of his photographs are part of The Contemporary African Art Collection (CAAC) of Jean Pigozzi.

Malick Sidibé is represented by Fifty One Fine Art Photography, Antwerp.[4]


In 2003, Sidibé received the Hasselblad Award for photography.

In 2006 Tigerlily Films made a documentary entitled Dolce Vita Africana about Malick 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 abouthis work.

In 2007, Sidibé became the first African and the first photographer to be awarded the Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale. Robert Storr, the show’s artistic director, said, “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.”[5] In 2008, Sidibé was awarded the ICP Infinity Award for Lifetime Achievement.[6]

Major shows[edit]

  • Museum of Contemporary Art (solo), Chicago, USA, 1996
  • Centre d’Art Contemporain (solo), Geneva, Switzerland (solo), 2000
  • Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna (solo), Rome, Italy (solo), 2001
  • Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands (solo), 2001
  • You look beautiful like that : The Portrait of Photographs of Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé; Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, MA, USA; UCLA Hammer Museum, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA; Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach FL, USA; National Portrait Gallery, London, Great Britain; Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts, MA, USA, (2001–2003)
  • Musée Pincé, Angers (solo), France, 2003
  • Hasselblad Center (solo), Göteborg Museum of Art, Gothenburg, Sweden, 2003–2004
  • CAV Coimbra Visual Arts Centre (solo), Coimbra, Portugal. 2004
  • Museet for Fotokunst. Brandts Klaedefabrik (solo), Odense, Denmark, 2004
  • Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam (solo), Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2008
  • Why Africa?, Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, Turin, Italy 2007/2008
  • African Stories, Marrakech Art Fair, Marrakech, 2010
  • Paris Photo, Grand Palais, Artur Walther Collection, 2011
  • Everything was Moving Exhibition, Barbican Gallery, 13 September 2012/13 January 2013


External links[edit]