Born in the small village of Soloba, Malick Sidibé stands out quickly because of his talent for drawing. His tutors encourage him to enlist in the School for Soedanese Arts in Bamako. He graduates in Jewellery and Design but starts his career in a totally different field: the decoration the Photo Service boutique, where he will become the pupil of owner Gérard Guillat. Three years later, he opens his own “Studio Malick”, where he still works. Where Keita photographed people in his small studio, Sidibé has become the father of the streets of Mali. He is also one of the only reporters to have covered all of the news of that time.
In the sixties and seventies he focused solely on the local youth. Caught in surprise snapshots, or posing leisurely, these youngsters drag him along on their numerous wanderings. To sports events, relaxing on the beach, a fight in the nightclub Happy Boys or the Surf Club, out to a concert or seducing girls.
If Malick Sidibé’s images emanate so much power, it is because beyond the convivial and careless atmosphere he also illustrates the difficulty of having to adapt to life in the city. The confrontation with unemployment and alcohol, the irresistible desire to be like young whites. The pictures reflect the artist: convivial, intimate and yet not voyeuristic, they tell of a great complicity between the artist and his subjects. Like that other photographer Keita, Sidibé too has had to wait until the nineties to get recognition outside his own country. Malick Sidibe got the Hasselblad Award, the golden Lion at the Venice Biennale and lately the ICP award for lifetime achievement.
Image Courtesy of Andre Magnin