In 1960 Mali broke free from French rule, gaining independence for the first time since the country was taken over in the 19th century. This was a time of real change for the African country when the culture and lives of those who lived there were in constant transformation, and Malick Sidibé was there to chronicle it all. Renowned for his black-and-white images of the Malian capital – Bamako – during this time, Sidibé’s images document the soul and spirit of this historic change unlike anything else.
His images are currently on show at London’s Somerset House until 15 January 2017; the late Malian photographer’s first solo exhibition in the UK. With rock ‘n’ roll at its height, an independence that brought with it a new lease of life and ’60s experimental fashion, Sidibé captures the energy and mood of the capital’s youth, as well as the momentous social and cultural change.
Music played a big role in his photographs, as it did during this time when the country’s citizens were – literally – shaking off the shackles of colonialism and French rule. Young men and women could get close for the first time, with many of Sidibé’s images showing couples dancing freely – including Nuit de Noël (Happy Club) which shows two young teens dancing, their heads almost touching.
The rest of the images show joy, freedom of expression (which Mali’s citizens could exercise the first time) and a unique sense of style that mixed traditional African garments with western influences.
To find out more about Malick Sidibé: The Eye of Modern Mali, visit the Somerset House website.