Martin Barlow, curator of the exhibition Moving Into Space at the National Football Museum talks about the exhibition.
After Mali achieved independence from France in 1960, its capital, Bamako, underwent great cultural changes. Suddenly, everything seemed possible. The country was reborn, outward looking and confident about the future. The young people of the city celebrated these new and exciting times with parties that stretched through the night. Malick Sidibé was perfectly placed to capture this time in photographs. He would be invited to these parties, three or four a night, and with his small twin-lens reflex camera would photograph the young people dancing and posing. Before dawn, the film would be processed and printed, and then pinned up outside his studio ready for the party-goers to spot themselves and possibly buy the print.
Sidibé had learnt photography whilst working for Bamako’s society photographer, Gérard Guillat. Unlike most white photographers, ‘Gégé la pellicule’ allowed his young studio assistant to buy a camera. Guillat would photograph the Europeans, and Sidibé the Africans. Sidibé went on to revolutionise studio portraiture, incorporating a lightness of touch and informality that sought to capture the vivacity of his sitters. Best clothes were worn, Vespas ridden, and transistor radios held by Malians who put their faith in Sidibé’s ability to represent them in the way that they wished to be seen.
Born in 1935/36 in Mali. Lives and works in Mali.
Solo exhibitions include Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2008; CAV Coimbra Visual Arts Centre, Coimbra, Portugal, 2004; Hasselblad Center, Göteborg Museum of Art, Gothenburg, Sweden, 2003–2004; You look beautiful like that : The Portrait of Photographs of Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, USA and the National Portrait Gallery, London, UK, 2001–2003; Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome, Italy , 2001; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2001; Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva, Switzerland, 2000.
Prizes include the Hasselblad Award for Photography in 2003; the 52nd Venice Biennale’s Golden Lion for lifetime achievement award in 2007 and the ICP Infinity Award for Lifetime Achievement 2008.
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Street life, dazzling dress, social commentary and a riot of sensuous colour interweave in a rich assembly of West African art, writes Charles Gore in the Times Higher Education