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* Featured in African Portraits, 6 October - 19th November 2016
*Online preview here

I believe in the power of images. That’s why I’ve invested my whole soul in them, my whole heart, to make my subjects more beautiful’.

Malick Sidibé was born around 1935, in a small village in Mali. Because of his talent for drawing, he was encouraged by his school tutors to enlist in the school of Sudanese Craftsmen in Bamako where he studied jewellery and graduated in 1955. This is where he met Gerard Guillat, who was looking for a student to decorate his "Photo Service" shop and studio. He chose Malick for the job and when it was finished he asked him to stay as his apprentice.

Malick bought his first camera in 1956, and in 1958 he opened his own studio in Bagadadji, in the heart of Bamako. Like Seydou Keïta before him, Malick Sidibé started with studio portraits. But unlike his predecessor he soon became a street photographer and the only young reporter in Bamako at that time.

In the 60’s and 70’s Malick worked mainly with the burgeoning club scene of the young folk of Bamako. Clubs with glamorous names like "Les Cyclones", "Les Monkees" or "Les Chats Sauvages" were constantly sprouting up and were all the rage. Surprise parties in the evenings, river Niger on hot Sundays, football championships, boxing matches, and all sorts of events that Malick illustrated with moving photographs, lively snapshots, and leisure poses. Malick’s photography studio itself became a hip hangout for Bamako’s youth. Being a real inside-scenester, Malick was entrusted by his clients to photograph them at all times.

Malick Sidibé’s pictures reflect the convivial and carefree atmosphere of a post-colonial African capital. But beyond that they are simple, spontaneous, yet extremely beautiful images, illustrating moments of truth and complicity. They reveal Malick Sidibé’s love of people and his passion for photography and allow us to witness another face of Africa.

Malick Sidibé’s work has been exhibited worldwide since 1995, including Deitch Projects, New York, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, The Cartier Foundation, Paris, The National Gallery of Modern Art, Rome, The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and The National Portrait Gallery, London. He is also included in many international private and museum collections.

In 2003 Sidibé was awarded the prestigious Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography. In 2007 he was the first African artist to be honoured with the Venice Biennale Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. In 2009 Sidibé was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Center for Photography, New York.

In 2016 Malik Sidibé died in Mali, a country where he worked as one of its most successful photographers for over 60 years.

Malick Sidibé is the subject of a solo exhibition curently showing at Somerset House, London which runs until January 15th, 2017: Malick Sidibé: The Eye of Modern Mali

Read The Guardian feature

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