Malick Sidibé (1936-2016) aka ‘The eye of Bamako,’ was a Malian photographer known for documenting popular culture in postcolonial Bamako through black and white shots. He was born in a village called Soloba and attended the École des Artisans Soudanais, before starting an apprenticeship with French society photographer Gérard Guillard, in 1957.
In 1958 Sidibé opened his studio named Studio Malick in Bagadadji, a district located in the heart of Bamako. He was the youngest photographer in the capital at the time. In addition to being the only with a Kodak Brownie – with a flash – which allowed him to take pictures at night. Thus, he began documenting Bamako’s stylish youth – capturing moments at nightclubs, the beach and parties.
The youth had started being exposed to foreign music in the 1950s and according to Sidibé, “Music was really the revolution,” as his peers were heavily consuming Rock’n’Roll music. After attending numerous parties, the photographer would develop his film and display the pictures in front of his studio. A move that attracted hoards of young people, curious to see whether they appeared in the photos. The shots were sold for 200 francs each.In the 1960s, Malick Sidibé began taking portraits at his studio, which numerous people frequented since it was relatively inexpensive. Many people would show up in their best attire, jewellery and accessories. Others would bring their motorbikes, or any other possession they wanted to show off.
Although a well-established and renowned photographer in Mali, Sidibé’s work started receiving international acclaim in the 1990s after French curator André Magnin introduced his work to France. Sidibé offered a new perspective on West-African modern life. In 1995, the photographer had his first international exhibition at the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art in Paris. A year after the photographer’s April 2016 passing, the foundation paid tribute in the form of a large retrospective exhibition titled Mali Twist.
Sidibé’s work has been shown around the world since the 1990s, and in 2007 he became the first African and first photographer to receive the Golden Lion award for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale. Some of his other awards include the 2003 Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography, the Infinity Award from The International Center of Photography in 2008 and the Arts and Entertainments category at the 2010 World Press Photo competition.
Malick Sidibé’s legacy lives on as we continue to find echoes of his work in art and fashion. We have curated 10 of the iconic photographer’s shots which can be found below