I saw a post from Senegalese contemporary artist Omar Victor Dip on facebook: “Abasourdi par une triste nouvelle, Malick Sidibé n’est plus… Je m’incline devant la mémoire et l’oeuvre de l’un des Grands. Vous qui l’avez connu, au delà des murs de son studio, je pense à vous.” Stunned by a sad news, Malick Sidibé is no more… I bow to the memory and the work of one of the greats. You who have known, beyond the walls of his studio, I think about you.
Could it be? I wasn’t sad in the way that I emoted at the news of the passing of Phife only a month ago. I felt something else. It’s the feeling of a great loss yet a moment where you find yourself engulfed by sheer awe when you take in the life and prolific work of a man who was a giant. Malian photographer, Malick Sidibé, took a camera and in return delivered to us our humanity, in all of its exquisite glory, right from his meta-progressive studio in metropolitan mid-twenty century Bamako. There would be no Dandy Lion Project without Sidibé – his photography defined everything that we love about US.
So it is with these thoughts and in my desire to pay tribute to giant of a man, turned ancestors, that I turned to my friends to – all enormous artists themselves – to pay tribute to someone who meant so much.
– Shantrelle P. Lewis
Above Photo Credit: Benoit Facchi
Reflections on Malick Sidibé
“The representation of Africa has long been a fraught one. Conceptualized in the Western imagination as “the dark continent,” the images of and about Africa and Africans were often stereotypical at best and relegated to the misguided or the sterile realm of the anthropological more often than not.
Enter Malick Sidibé and his Rolleiflex camera, a fine German made instrument in the hands of this man from Bamako, Mali determined that there be a visual record of the West African community that was his home and the peoples who were his contemporaries as they emerged from the oppressive shadow of French colonialism in 1960. Photographing first in the spaces where people gathered and socialized and later setting up his studio, his photographs celebrated the exuberant and cosmopolitan Malians in the midst of celebrating themselves, dressed in the latest fashions, dancing the latest steps, posing for the camera in all of their “self possessed-ness” as their presence was permanently fixed and affirmed in his negatives. Colonial subjects no more, liberated into their full and public expressivity!
Sidibé became their collaborator, celebrating and mirroring their presence in his exquisitely crafted black and white photographs, all the while giving the lie to the image of Africans as essentialized peoples of one kind or another, either singularly oppressed and degraded or ennobled beyond the complex places in which they lived. Malick Sidibé’s pictures give the lie to all of that one dimensionality, replacing it with a richness and complexity, an attention to how form, gesture, attention to timing and psychology animate and elevate the person in front of the camera.
Yes, a great tree has fallen, but through his life and his glorious photographs his people remain standing tall, to be celebrated into eternity just as he will be.”
“In most of our communities we understand the placement of the individual life as institution. We celebrate the mundane as monument. No one expressed that better than Malik Sidibé in Mali…His portraits were totems in the sanctity of community.”