Capturing the dawning of a new freedom in West Africa - Dazed
As his largest UK retrospective to date opens its doors, we trace the life and legacy of the late Malick Sidibé, with friend and curator Philippe Boutté

Text: Ashleigh Kane

“Une pose à côté de l'arbre, nuit du 21 février”, 1970 © Malick Sidibé
Courtesy Galerie MAGNIN-A, Paris

Step in front of one of Malick Sidibé’s black and white images and there’s little doubt you’ll be transported into the swinging 60s of Bamako, Mali. Out of the corner of your eye, you’ll feel like the people in them – dancing, laughing, joking – are actually moving, and the sounds of Malian roots music will fill your ears.

Sidibé’s images captured life in Mali in the 60s and 70s, from the party to the after party, as well as locals who visited him in his infamous black and white tiled studio. Although blind in one eye he was dubbed "The Eye of Bamako" and garnered a reputation travelling up and down the country taking photos of parties and weekend gatherings on the Niger River at a time when the country was in the midst of experiencing freedom for the first time since it fell under colonial rule in 1892. Youths were able to express themselves in a way not yet seen in their lifetimes – and Sidibé and his camera saw it all.

On 14 April this year, Sidibé passed away at 80-years-old, leaving behind three wives and 17 children. In honour of his life, work and spirit, Somerset House has organised the largest UK showing of his photographs to date. Spread across three [...]

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