If you are in London right now put on your fancy shoes and head to Somerset House for the first solo exhibition of Malick Sidibé (free entrance so no excuses). Known for his B&W photographs of youth in his native Bamako, Mali, Sidibé created an unique chronicle of live in the wake of the country’s independence in 1960 (former French colony). The exhibition presents 45 original prints from the 1960-70s and is divided into 3 different subjects: Tiep à Bamako / Nightlife in Bamako, Au Fleuve Niger / Beside the Niger River, Le Studio / The Studio.

“No African artist has done more to enhance photography’s stature in the region, contribute to its history, enrich its image archive or increase our awareness of the textures and transformations of African culture in the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st than Malick Sidibé.”

Robert Storr, art critic & former MoMa curator

Looking at Sidibé’s photographs you can barely notice that they are missing vivid colours to which our eye is so used to nowadays. We can hear the music, we can hear the laughter, we can see the rainbow. This was made possible by Sidibé’s solid studio skills and background in drawing, which he always praised as an irreplaceable assent in photography.

After couple years working as an assistant Sidibé bought his first camera and set up his own studio in Bamako in 1958. Beside capturing vivid nightlife of young people of Mali Sidibe specialised in studio portrait photography. Charging less than a quarter for a photograph he made it accessible for everyone and not only for privileged people. (The Studio series)

“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.”

This exhibition gathers pictures from a very particular time for Bamako, showing both new independence and pop culture coming from the Western World. The young people of Bamako embraced them both. This transition was captured by Sidibé in the series Nightlife in Bamako.

“At the end of the day its only life that’s left. Life is the only thing”


Jack Shainman Gallery (2016). Available at: (Accessed: 2 November 2016)

Somerset House (2016) Malick Sidibe. Available at: (Accessed: 2 November 2016).

The Guardian (2016) Exhibition of Malick Sidibé photography to open in London. Available at: (Accessed: 2 November 2016)

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