• Studio Malick, installation photo: Jean-Baptiste Béranger
    Studio Malick, installation photo: Jean-Baptiste Béranger
17 August 2013–1 December 2013

Malick Sidibe – La vie en rose

Malick Sidibé, Les Trois Amis, 1970-tal

La vie en rose presents a selection of over 50 photographs taken in Mali’s capital Bamako, in the 1960s-1970s by the internationally acclaimed Malian photographer Malick Sidibé. The exhibition includes the iconic black-and-white photographs that have made Sidibé world famous: the parties in the 1960s, studio portraits and a selection of photographs from his archive. Presented is also a reconstruction of Sidibé’s legendary studio, which he set up in 1962 and continues to run with the help of his sons.

Recently, Mali has been wracked by a military coup and ethnic unrest, but in the 1960s, Mali was experiencing a burst of energy and optimism that followed upon its liberation from French colonialism. Malick Sidibé’s images unveil the magic and excitement of Bamako in those years when the desire to be together, of being part of history in its making seemed imperative. Positioned at the junction of Malian independence and a period of rapid modernisation, the works bear witness to the joy, insouciance, and confidence of Africa’s youth revolution.

Malick Sidibé, Les Trois Fumeus, Bamako, 1962
Malick Sidibé, Studio Malick, Bamako, 1977

The youths in Sidibé’s photographs are in contradiction not only with colonial-era studio photography, but also with the patterns of life that one would expect in a decolonised state. Many African independence leaders at the time criticised the youths for alienating themselves from the teachings of the national state, mimicking and assimilating the culture of the coloniser. What might not have been visible then is that through popular culture – by seizing upon their own individuality, looking like the modern black image detached from nation and tribe – important connections were made across national border with the black diaspora and international youth movements.

Although a small sampling of Sidibé’s oeuvre, La vie en rose captures the excitement of a generation who were free to deviate from social norms through a mixing of traditional and Western clothes and music.

Born in 1936 in Soloba, a village outside of Bamako, Malick Sidibé began his career as an apprentice to the French photographer Guillat-Guinard for whom he in 1957 started making his first reportages of parties, christenings and weddings. In 1962 he opened the Studio Malick, in the popular neighbourhood of Bagadadji, where he continued his activity as portraitist. At the same time Sidibé depicted the outdoor life of Bamako: people in nightclubs with exotic names that were opening everywhere in town and house parties spinning the latest James Brown album as wells as picnics on the banks of the river Niger. Sidibé was invited to all the big events: his fame was so great that if he could not participate, they would change the time or even the day of the event. In an interview with John Henley of the Guardian in 2010, Sidibé reflected on the burgeoning nightlife in Bamako:

“We were entering a new era, and people wanted to dance. Music freed us. Suddenly, young men could get close to young women, hold them in their hands. Before, it was not allowed. And everyone wanted to be photographed dancing up close. They had to see it!

In Sidibé’s studio portraits his subjects are often dressed in their finest clothes and accessories, including jewellery, purses, hats and occasionally props as Vespas and motorcycles, exuding a cool, hip, macho or seductive attitude. His photographs at parties capture a similar ambience, although the snapshots are constructed more formally.

Malick Sidibé, Studio Malick, Bamako, 1977
Malick Sidibé, Studio Malick, Bamako, 1977

Although many of Sidibé’s iconic images were taken almost fifty years ago, it is only recently that he has achieved acclaim. Since 2000, he has been the recipient of the Hasselblad Award (2003), the International Center of Photography Award for Lifetime Achievement (2009), as well as the Venice Biennale Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement (2007).

The exhibition La vie en rose is curated by Laura Serani and Laura Incardona and is made in collaboration with Collezione Maramotti, where it was first shown in 2010.


Two documentaries about Malick Sidibé will be on view during the exhibition period: Dolce Vita Africana (2008) by Cosima Spender and Malick Sidibé , le partage (2012) by Thomas Glaser and Franck Landron

Saturday, August 17, 2pm
Laura Serani will give a short introduction on African photography, the place of the portrait tradition, the role of the Rencontres de Bamako since the first edition in 1994. Her talk will include a conversation with Malick Sidibé, his vision of life and photography

Wednesday, September 18, 6pm
Madeleine Bergh talks about her experiences of travelling in Mali and shows the documentary Porträtt i Bamako about photographer Seydou Keita (created by Madeleine Bergh and Margareta Jonols).  Malick Sidibé’s work is discussed in relation to an on-going portrait tradition in Mali.

Wednesday, October 9, 6pm Note: The date has been changed 
Artist Arijana Kajfes talks to Fatoumata Diabaté about her work and what it is like being a female photographer in Mali. Arijana met Fatoumata through her art project Dérive:Tombouctou in Mali 2010, when she hired her as photographer. Their friendship has since deepened as Arijana returned to Mali several times to develop her work with EXP (Experiments in Xross cultural Practices), an organization that fosters artistic collaboration. During the talk Arijana will also show images from her artistic projects as well as her work with EXP.

Wednesday, October 23, 6pm
Eva-Lotta Holm Flach talks about the contemporary art scene in West Africa, highlighting a few specific artists.