Malick Sidibé (b. 1935, Soloba, Mali; d. 2016, Bamako, Mali) was a photographer known for his black and white images chronicling the exuberant lives and culture—often of youth—in his native Bamako, Mali. Much of Sidibé's work documented a transitional moment as Mali gained its independence, transforming from a French colony steeped in tradition to an independent country looking toward the West, and Sidibé played a pivotal role in sculpting the fresh, global appearance of the African diaspora.Read More
This political expression often took shape through individual and collective presentation, such as fashion, music, and dance–something made palpable by Sidibé's rhythmic compositions. Often capturing his subjects in the midst of ceremonial action or in joyous moments of nightlife, Sidibé built the narrative of a specific time and space that empowered a culture to dictate their own stories. There is a distinct sense of chronicle felt in the movement of Sidibé's subjects, who boldly occupy both the photograph's frame and their recently decolonised nation's public and leisure spaces. Beyond his candid shots, Sidibé ran a formal portrait studio with a deliberately dramatic décor as a backdrop. In order to capture his sitters' characters and lives, he orchestrated them into relaxed positions encouraging them to bring along beloved personal objects, like a new motorcycle or a James Brown record. It was through his portraiture that Sidibé documented the changing fashions and aspirations of generations in Bamako.
Text courtesy Jack Shainman.