Tribute to the legendary Malian photographer Malick Sidibe

You will be amazed to notice some level of similarities between the present generation and that of the 60s, 70s and the 80. Call them ‘the stone ages’ but the culture of yore speaks a lot about us. One man dedicated his time in making sure that your amnesia does not affect the way of history. Armed with the most loved tool nowadays- the camera, Malick Sidibe would tell the story of the early years of African independence, African freedom in black and white.

Malick Sidibe ‘Eye of Bamako’ died on Thursday April 14, 2016 due to diabetes complications. He was around 80. Critics credit his photos to the culture of the freedom that came with independence. Sidibe loved chronicling life on the streets, nightclubs and young men and women who loved showing off with flashy bicycles or any other things of endearment. He was unlike other artists whose area was the bitter neocolonial betrayal of Africa. 

Mr Sidibe’s love for photography was discovered while he was still in school. He left his shepherding days at the age of 10 and joined school in what was then the French Sudan. Being among a few privileged African boys in school Malick would join École des Artisans Soudanais in Bamako in 1952 due to his exceptional artistic inclination. He would later work under the apprenticeship of Gérard Guillat- a society photographer. 

It would then not come as a surprise that he was the eye of Bamako. Given his love for culture and youth endeavors, Sidibe’s collection, speaks volumes of History of the West African State. He had an uncanny documentary style of taking pictures. According to an interview with, Sidibe loved to collect stuff hence the success in chronicling Mali, given that he filed his negatives and kept them safely.
He has had a fair share of success as a photographer. The height of his career came when he won the coveted Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice film festival. 

His photography spans 60 years and is currently on display at the Manhattan gallery. He has always exhibited at DePaul University Art Museum, Chicago, Studio Malick ,  Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College, Florida, and to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College in Spring 2014. In 2008, a solo exhibition was organized by Fotografiemuseum (FOAM), in Amsterdam, Netherlands. It traveled to Musée Nicéphore Niépce, Chalon-sur Saône. Both solo exhibitions were accompanied by catalogues. In 2008 his work was also shown at the University Art Gallery at the University of San Diego, California. (Courtesy of Jack Shainman).

As Mali and Africa as a whole mourns, tributes continue to flow in honor of the legendary artist. The Malian minister of culture N’Diaye Ramatoulaye Diallo described him as a man who was part of Mali’s cultural heritage.

We here at Afroway recognize the value of such individuals who told the happier cultural story of Africa. Not only will his chronology remind us of our past but also mentor young artists and photographers to tell a different angle of the African story, away from the subliminal perennial fights, drought, floods and famine.

The stories from Africa, not stories about Africa.

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