Malick Sidibé

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Visual Arts (photography)
Africa, Western
created on:
July 13, 2003
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Pictures full of music

Malick Sidibé got off to a late but flying start in the international art-scene with an exhibition in Paris in 1995. Since then curators and gallery owners all round the world have been vying to show his photos. Born in 1935 or 36 in a small village in Mali, he has been known in his homeland for decades as a chronicler of youth culture. His photos, taken at parties and in dance-clubs, but also in poor boroughs and on the streets of Bamako, are notable for their immediacy, intensity and authenticity.
A group of youths waiting on Saturday evening in front of a club, a couple self-confidently dancing the Mali-twist, a disco lit by the flashes of a stroboscope and with visitors clad gaily and incongruously in traditional and European clothes - with photos like these the Malinese photographer Malick Sidibé has recently become a star of the international art-scene. Since their notable appearance in 1995 in the Fondation Cartier in Paris, his photos have been seen in many exhibitions and museums in Europe, Africa and the USA, and in 2003 Sidibé became the first African photographer to win the coveted international prize for photography awarded by the Swedish Hasselblad Foundation.

Malick Sidibé was born in 1935 or 36 in the small village Soloba in what was then the French part of Sudan and is now Mali. His ability at drawing early became evident, so his teachers urged him to go to the College for Sudanese Art in Bamako, where he then began studying to be a designer or goldsmith. On developing a passion for photography, he turned to an apprenticeship in Bamako under Gérard Guillat, the founder of the Photo Service Boutique known as "Gégé la pellicule" ("Gégé the filmroll") and opened his own studio, the Studio Malick, in 1958. Bamako was then a centre of Malinese photography in which not only Guillat and Sidibé but also other pioneers like Seydou Keïta, Sakaly and Félix Dialo were working. Success was not slow to come. Sidibé became the chronicler of the self-confident Malinese youth culture in the years after independence, and the photos which he took in pubs and at parties with his handy pocket camera soon made him well known in his own land.

The unusual thing about Sidibé´s photos is their snapshot quality, though he did more than just open the shutter, and the fact that they are in close-up. If Sidibé takes a shot of a couple dancing, for instance, their two figures almost fill the frame, so that only glimpses of other folk, dancing or loitering, are afforded. This gives viewers the feeling of being at the heart of events. On seeing young folk in his photos, one almost hears the music freaking them out as well as their yells of glee and the click of heels on the dance-floor.

Despite their apparent spontaneity, the images are well composed and to the point, not showy or flashy. They are convincingly and alluringly authentic. If a carefree, joyous and light ambience is shown, they radiate fun, and if the dark underside of the city is shown, like alcoholism and unemployment, they spread gloom. It is this intensity of presentation which has made Sidibé´s works attract not only curators of exhibitions but also Western publishers, who for instance have printed them with the time-consuming duo-tone process.

Malick Sidibé lives and works in Bamako.
Author: Ulrich Clewing


1935 (or 36) born in Soloba in what is now Mali
1955 diploma as a designer and goldsmith at the École des Artisans Soudanais in Bamako
1955-58 apprenticeship as a photographer in the Studio ´Photo Service Boutique´ in Bamako
1958 founding of the photo-studio ´Photo Malick´ in Bamako


The Short Century (Kat.), Munich, London, New York

Published Written,

art, das Kunstmagazin, July

Published Written,

Malick Sidibé et al., Snap me one (Kat.), Munich

Published Written,

André Magnin, Malick Sidibé, Zurich

Published Written,

Group Exhibitions (Choice)

Exhibition / Installation
2005 "Another World”, Maison Africaine de la Photographie, Bamako, Mali "Contact”, Toronto Photography Festival, Toronto, Canada "Gallery Du Jour Agnès B. presents ... ”, Alliance Française Toronto, Toronto, Canada 2004 "=weiß = schwarz=white=black=“, IWALEWA-Haus, Bayreuth, Germany "!Fotografi i Fokus“, Fotografi i Fokus, Malmö, Sweden "with Hamburg Kennedy Photographs“, Scalo Project Space, New York, USA "Mois de la Photographie“, JM I Patras, Paris, France "Common Ground”, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, USA "Image and Identity”, The Sheldon Art Galleries, St. Louis Missouri, USA "Four Years”, Fifty One Fine Art Photography, Antwerp, Belgium "New Acquisitions: Local and Global Contemporary Photography”, Bates College Museum of Art, Lewiston, USA "Pretty World”, Aeroplastics Contemporary, Brussel, Belgium "Collection Agnès B”, Les Abattoirs - Frac Midi-Pyrénées, Toulouse, France "Stage Realities“, Michael Stevenson, Cape Town, South Africa "Nous Remontons de la "Calle" Toutes les Photographies!", Galerie du Jour agnès b., Paris, France 2003 "Summertime Blues”, Galerie Conrads, Düsseldorf, Germany "Portraits of Pride”, Preus fotomuseum, Horten, Norway "You Look Beautiful Like That”, National Portrait Gallery, London, Great Britain 2001 "Afrika: eine Hommage", Villa Stuck, Munich, Germany 2000 "Portrait Africa", House of World Cultures, Berlin, Germany 1998 "Snap me one", Stadtmuseum, Munich, Germany 1997 "Retrats de l´anima“, Fundació la Caixa, Barcelona, Spain 1996 "In/sight: African Photographers, 1940 to the present" Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA 1995 Fondation Cartier pour l´art contemporain, Paris, France

Solo Exhibitions (Choice)

Exhibition / Installation
2005 "2004 års Hasselbladspristagare från Mali“, Fotogalleri Format, Malmö, Sweden "Malick Sidibé“, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, USA 2004 "Studio Malick“, La Galerie de La Filature, Mulhouse, France "Malick Sidibé“, Museet for Fotokunst, Odense, Denmark "2003 års Hasselbladspristagare“, Fotografins Hus, Stockholm, Sweden "Malick Sidibé“, CAV Coimbra Visual Arts Centre, Coimbra, Portugal "Hasselbladspristagare 2003“, The Regional Museum, Kristianstad, Sweden 2003 "2003 års Hasselbladspristagare“, Haselblad Center, Göteborg, Sweden "Malick Sidibeé: Studio Malick, Bamako”, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, USA "Bathing“, Galerie Conrads, Düsseldorf, Germany 2002 "Malick Sidibé“, Galerie Claude Samuel, Paris, France "Shimon Attie - White Nights, Sugar Dreams / Malick Sidibé – Mali”, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, USA 1999 "Malick Sidibé: The Clubs of Bamako”, Deitch Projects, New York, USA "Malick Sidibé”, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago – MCA, Chicago, USA "Malick Sidibè – Photographie“, Dany Keller Galerie, Munich, Germany


2003 Hasselblad International Prize for Photography


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the partner institutions.

The Short Century

Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa

(18 May 01 - 29 July 01)
Work: Title Unknown, Mali, 1970
Work: Title Unknown, Mali