Malick Sidibé, whose black-and-white photographs of young partygoers captured the exuberance of newly independent Mali in the 1960s and ’70s and made him one of Africa’s most celebrated artists after his work was shown abroad in the 1990s, died on Thursday in Bamako, Mali. He was 80.
His son Karim Sidibé said the cause was complications of diabetes, The Associated Press reported.
Mr. Sidibé started out taking pictures at weddings and christenings in the 1950s, using a Kodak Brownie camera, but after opening his own studio he branched out into a more ambitious form of social reporting. He attended Saturday-night parties at which young Malians, dressed to the nines, danced the twist, the rumba and the merengue to the Beatles, James Brown and Afro-Caribbean music. This was Mali’s youthquake, and Mr. Sidibé was its photographic witness.
“For me, photography is all about youth,” he told The Daily Telegraph of London in 2008. “It’s about a happy world full of joy, not some kid crying on a street corner or a sick person.”
His small-format photographs, surrounded by a brown tape border, were intended to be kept as souvenirs or sent as postcards. But after Western collectors discovered his work in the 1990s, they began presenting it, in enlarged sizes, in galleries and museums in Europe and the United States. He quickly became, with the older Seydou Keita, Mali’s most famous photographer and an international star.
Mr. Sidibé was the first African to receive the Hasselblad Award, in 2003, and at the 2007 Venice Biennale he received the Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement, the first given to either a photographer or an African artist.
“He really changed the way Westerners look at Africa,” said Jack Shainman, whose Manhattan gallery currently has an exhibition of Mr. Sidibé’s work. (It runs through next Saturday.) “He captured the newfound freedom after colonialism — that time, and that moment,” he said.
Malick Sidibé was born in 1935 or 1936 in Soloba, a village in what was then French Sudan. He grew up in an extended family of 60 and herded sheep and cattle for his father.
He was chosen by the village chief to be the first child in his family to attend school, a white institution in Yanfolila, where he learned French. His skill at drawing with charcoal earned him a place at the Sudan School for Craftsmen (now the National Arts Institute), where he was trained as a jewelry maker.
A French expatriate photographer, Gérard Guillat-Guignard, hired Mr. Sidibé to decorate his combined studio and shop, Photo Service Boutique, and then took him on as an apprentice. While running the cash register and delivering photographs to customers, Mr. Sidibé closely observed Mr. Guillat and absorbed the fundamentals of photography.
Before long, he started working commercially. “I did the African events, the photos of Africans, and he did the European events — the major balls, official events,” Mr. Sidibé told the photography website gwinzegal.com in 2008.
After going out on his own, he created Studio Malick in 1958, where he specialized in portrait photography with his own distinctive touch. He coaxed his subjects into more informal poses that gave his work a lively, vibrant quality. Tonally bold and beautifully composed, they often showed subjects glorying in a new possession — a sheep or a motorcycle — or showing off in modern clothes.
“Generally, women come to get photographed as soon as they have a new hairdo or purchase a trendy piece of jewelry: a bracelet, a necklace, a handbag,” Mr. Sidibé told The Los Angeles Times in 2002. “For men, it’s when they buy a new bicycle or motorcycle.”
He found a rich subject in the parties and dances put on by social clubs with names like the Sputniks, the Black Socks and Las Vegas. On some nights, he would attend four parties, one after the other, photographing young Malians able, for the first time, to dance close together.
“At that time, young people were very motivated,” he told the French newspaper Libération in 1995. “Every Saturday night you had to dress elegantly. People would plan their outfits all week long. To make an impression, you had to be impeccable, with a trouser crease so sharp you could cut off the head of a chicken with it.”
He later produced a portrait series called “Vue de Dos,” which showed women with their backs turned to the camera.
In the early 1990s, when he had turned to camera repair work to earn a living, Mr. Sidibé was discovered by the photographer Françoise Huguier and by André Magnin, a curator who had been sent to West Africa by Jean Pigozzi, a French collector.
Mr. Magnin organized an exhibition of Mr. Sidibé’s work at the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art in Paris, and a coffee-table book appeared soon after. In 1999, Jeffrey Deitch showed Mr. Sidibé’s party photos in Manhattan in the show “The Clubs of Bamako.” A documentary about him, “Dolce Vita Africana,” was shown on British television in 2008.
He is survived by three wives and 17 children.
As he grew older, Mr. Sidibé stopped going to the parties, unable to blend in, but he remained sentimental about the era and the free and easy way that young Malians of all classes mingled on the dance floor.
“I loved the music and the atmosphere, but above all I loved the dancers,” he told The Telegraph. “The moments when young people dance and play as though the stars belong to them — that’s what I loved the most.”
Malick Sidibé (born 1935 or 1936 – April 14, 2016) was a Malian photographer noted for his black-and-white studies of popular culture in the 1960s in Bamako. During his life, Sidibé gained an international reputation and was considered, along with Seydou Keïta, Mali's most famous photographer.
His work has been the subject of a number of publications and been exhibited throughout Europe, and in the United States. In 2007 he received a Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement at Venice Biennale, becoming both the first photographer and African so recognized. Other awards he received included a Hasselblad Award for photography,an International Center of Photography Infinity Award for Lifetime Achievement, and a World Press Photo award.Sidibé's work is held in the collections of The Contemporary African Art Collection (CAAC), the J. Paul Getty Museumin Los Angeles, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Life and work
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. 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 School of Sudanese Craftsmen (now the Institut National des Arts) in the capital city of Bamako. While at this school, he was noticed by photographer Gérard Guillat-Guignardand, who became a mentor and from whom, through close observation and practice, Sidibé learned the craft of photography.
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. 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. In the 1970s, Sidibé turned towards the making of studio portraits. His background in drawing became useful:
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. 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. 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.
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.
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, and the video pays tribute to a particular time (during the 1960s and 70s) 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. 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. More recently, Sidibé's influence can be seen directly through Inna Modja’s 2015 video for her song "Tombouctou," 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.
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:
|“||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.||”|
Sidibé died of complications from diabetes. He was survived by at 17 children and three wives.
Publications by Sidibé
- Malick Sidibé. By Andre Magnin. Zurich; New York: Scalo, 1998. ISBN 9783931141936. With an introduction by André Magnin, and essays by Sibidé ("Studio Malick"), Youssouf Doumbia, ("Ambiance totale avec Garrincha!"), Panka Dembelé ("Twist again!") and Boubacar Traoré ("Elvis est vivant!").
- Malick Sidibe: Photographs. Göteborg, Sweden: Hasselblad Center; Göttingen: Steidl, 2003. ISBN 978-3-88243-973-3. With a foreword by Gunilla Knape and an essay by Manthia Diawara, "The 1960s in Bamako: Malick Sidibé and James Brown". Published on the occasion of the exhibition Malick Sidibé: 2003 Hasselblad Award Winner held at the Hasselblad Center, Göteborg, Sweden, 2003.
- 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.
- 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 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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."
- 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."
- 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
- 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."
- 2003: Hasselblad Award for photography
- 2007: Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement, Venice Biennale
- 2008: Infinity Award for Lifetime Achievement, International Center of Photography (ICP), New York
- 2010: World Press Photo award – first prize singles, Arts and Entertainment
Sidibé's work is held in the following collections (partial list):
- The Contemporary African Art Collection (CAAC) of Jean Pigozzi, Geneva
- J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA
- Museum of Modern Art, New York
- Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco 
- Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD
- Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL
- Studio Museum in Harlem (New York) 
- High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
- International Center of Photography, New York
- Moderna Museet, Stockholm
This is a partial list of exhibitions by Sidibé.
This is a partial list, meant to give a representative selection:
- Malick Sidibé: Bamako 1962–1976, Fondation Cartier, Paris, 1995
- Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL, 1999
- Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva, Switzerland, 2000
- Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome, Italy, 2001
- Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2001
- Hasselblad Center, Göteborg Museum of Art, Gothenburg, Sweden, 2003
- CAV Coimbra Visual Arts Centre, Coimbra, Portugal. 2004
- Museet for Fotokunst, Brandts Klaedefabrik, Odense, Denmark, 2003-04 
- Malick Sidibé, Chemises, Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2008
- Malick Sidibé, The Eye of Bamako, M+B Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, USA. 2011
- Studio Malick, Gares de Bretagne et Montparnasse, Frac Bretagne, Conseil régional et SNCF. 2015
Exhibitions with others or at festivals
- You look beautiful like that: The Portrait of Photographs of Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé, Fogg Museum, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA; UCLA Hammer Museum, University of California, Los Angeles, CA; Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach FL; National Portrait Gallery, London; Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts, MA, 2001–2003
- Why Africa?, Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, Turin, Italy, 2007/2008. The work of 13 photographers including Sidibé , Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, Bodys Isek Kingelez, Chéri Samba, Makonde Lilanga, and Keita Seydou.
- African Stories, Marrakech Art Fair, Marrakech, 2010
- Paris Photo, Grand Palais, The Walther Collection, 2011
- Everything Was Moving: Photography from the 60s and 70s, Barbican Centre, September 2012 – January 2013. Work by Sidibé and Bruce Davidson, William Eggleston, David Goldblatt, Graciela Iturbide, Boris Mikhailov, Sigmar Polke, Shomei Tomatsu, Li Zhensheng, Ernest Cole, Raghubir Singh, and Larry Burrows.
Film and television appearances
- 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.