Malick Sidibé died this spring at 80. His black and white photographs of the young peoples joy and ebullience in the dance parties of newly independent Mali in the 60’s and 70’s are stunning in their joy and beauty.
Quotes are from the New York Times: It’s well worth reading the whole article
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.
…“He captured the newfound freedom after colonialism — that time, and that moment,”
..“.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.
“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.”