Discover The Exuberant Work Of Malick Sidibé

Over a year on from the death of Malick Sidibé, Parisian contemporary art museum Fondation Cartier is showcasing the work of the celebrated photographer.

Entitled "Mali Twist", the vast retrospective exhibition features music, festivities, youth, dance, and all that was dear to the Malian photographer.

Accompanied by a playlist created by Manthia Diawara and André Magnin, the rhythmic exhibition counts a total of 250 photographs, 30 of which have never been displayed to the public. 

All taken between 1960 and 1980, the photos range from Sidibé's iconic portraits to snaps of music lovers and, of course, a few wild parties.

Regardez-moi !, 1962. (Photo: Malick Sidibé/collection Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris)

After opening his own studio in the Malian capital in 1962, the photographer started to craft his trademark style. Before that, he had been recognised for his talents as an illustrator and was admitted to Bamako's École des Artisans Soudanais before going on to work in a photo lab. 

Bearing witness to the social and cultural surge that Mali experienced following its independence from France in 1960, Sidibé spent his life shooting black and white portraits in his studio and in dance halls. 

From workers to dancers, gentlemen to twisters, all the hope and vitality of Bamako's youth passed before the photographer's lens. 

Nicknamed 'the eye of Bamako', Sidibé explained of his working process:

"When [a subject] enters the studio, I already know how I'm going to deal with him. I watch how he holds himself, we joke together, there's always a sense of cousinhood. You need trust. Photos are not for yourself, they're for others."

With this in mind, he organised surprise parties and soirées, soon becoming the most in-demand photographer in town. As the exhibition notes, these parties often lasted until dawn, spreading along the Niger river as the young party-goers discovered dances originating from Europe and Cuba. 

As Malick Sidibé explained of these parties:

"The youth from this time really liked twist, rock or Afro-Cuban music because it let the boys and girls to get close, touch and cling to each other. This wasn't possible with traditional music [...]

Young people, when they dance, are captivated by the music. In this atmosphere no one paid attention to me. I took advantage of that to capture what I liked. I never danced because I was shy, I only moved a little to the rhythm of the music [...]

Some asked me to photograph them for a souvenir. Others went outside in the foliage and called me to bring my flash while they kissed in the dark."

Never missing a night-out, the photographer documented the era with a sense of precision, compiling his snaps by date, name, number, club and musician, before posting them outside his studio for his subjects to pass by and see themselves immortalised. 

With an lively mix of melodies, teenage lust, elephant flares and patterned shirts, Malick Sidibé's work captures the joy of a liberated youth.

"Mali Twist" by Malick Sidibé will continue up to February 25 2018 at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris.

"Un yéyé en position", 1963. (© Malick Sidibé/collection Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris)

"Danser le twist", 1965. (Photo: Malick Sidibé/collection Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris)

"Nuit de Noël", 1963. (Photo: Malick Sidibé/Collection Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris)

"Un jeune gentleman", 1978. (Photo: Malick Sidibé/avec l’aimable autorisation de la galerie MAGNIN-A, Paris)

"Un gentleman en position", 1980. (Photo: Malick Sidibé/avec l’aimable autorisation de la galerie MAGNIN-A, Paris)

"Fans de James Brown", 1965. (Photo: Malick Sidibé/collection Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris)

"Combat des amis avec pierres au bord du Niger", 1976. (Photo: Malick Sidibé/collection Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris)

"Pique-nique à la Chaussée", 1972. (Photo: Malick Sidibé/collection Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris)

"À la plage", 1974. (Photo: Malick Sidibé/ la galerie du jour agnès b.)

"Les amis dans la même tenue", 1972. (Photo: Malick Sidibé/ CAAC – The Pigozzi Collection, Geneva)

"Mon chapeau et pattes d’éléphant", 1974. (Photo: Malick Sidibé/CAAC – The Pigozzi Collection, Geneva)

"Les faux agents du FBI", 1974. (Photo: Malick Sidibé/collection André Magnin)

1969. (Photo: Malick Sidibé)

1972. (Photo: Malick Sidibé)

1968. (Photo: Malick Sidibé)

1973. (Photo: Malick Sidibé)

 

Rédactrice en chef de Cheese et ex-Sorbonnarde, on ne m’a pas demandé si j’aimais le fromage avant d’arriver ici. Mais j’aime bien le fromage, donc tout va bien.