Life & Culture

Captivating Photos of Malian Youth by Malick Sidibé

A preview of Mali Twist, the largest-ever exhibition of the photographer’s work, which has opened at the Fondation Cartier in Paris

  • TextAilidh Maclean

Although his studio portraits are amongst some of his better-known works, Malick Sidibé went by the title of “reporter of the youth” due to his dynamic documentation of the cultural and social life of Bamako – his hometown and the capital city of Mali. The Cartier Fondation was the setting for Sidibé’s first-ever solo exhibition outside of Africa in 1995. Now, the Parisian contemporary art space is showcasing over 300 of Malick Sidibé’s energy-inducing photographs in the new exhibition, Mali Twist.

Sidibé drew little attention to himself and would candidly snap away as parties unfolded, gregarious characters descended and a mish-mash of musical influence – from rock and roll to Afro-Cuban music – electrified the newly independent country in 1960. He very quickly became the go-to man to cover parties and capture the frivolities of the Bamako youth for 20 years thereafter. Sidibé’s images oozed an unmatched sartorial energy at a time when an influx of Western fashion was melding with traditional Malian prints and techniques, accessorised by an unassuming confidence.

In addition to the plethora of photographs, including some never before seen images, Mali Twist includes an original playlist, a diverse photo studio and a showing of Cosima Spender’s documentary Dolce Vita Africana (2008) on loop. The Fondation Cartier has also arranged a series of concerts and balls to accompany the exhibition, inviting Malian artists and musicians to recreate the joyous soirées that Sidibé captured with such spirit and sincerity.

Malick Sidibé, Mali Twist is at Fondation Cartier from October 20, 2017 to February 25, 2018.