Middle East & Africa

Malick Sidibé
Au Bord du Fleuve Niger

Au bord du Fleuve Niger (1976) offers a unique insight into the lives of the 1970s in Bamako. The photograph provides a glimpse into the notoriously active and exciting life alongside the Niger River, where parties would often last until the early hours of the morning. The gaze of the teenage boys who pose for Sidibé bears witness to an intimate space between the lens of the camera, the artist, subjects and the viewer. This work is testament to Sidibé’s skill for capturing and sharing a moment. During the hot seasons, Sidibé would often go down to the Niger River to drink tea, dance and bathe –– it was here that he would take many spontaneous pictures of the others, although many young people posed and asked for pictures themselves. It is presumable thus that the boys in Au bord du Fleuve Niger (1976) approached Sidibé for the photo.

Malick Sidibé was a witness and participant in the changing of African youth culture, divided between tradition and the emergence of fashion, music and lifestyle influenced by the Western world. A celebrated photographer, Sidibé worked primarily in black and white and captured moments of celebration, burgeoning pop culture, and the nightlife of Bamako from the mid-20th century onwards. His photographs that documented the exciting and dynamic crossroad of culture also included portraits of young people elegantly dressed in posed studio shoots. Sidibé was selected to attend the School of Sudanese Craftsmen and later worked as an apprentice at the Gérard Guillat-Guignard's Photo Service Boutique -- it was here that he developed his skill and interest in photography. In all of his photographs emerge spontaneity, an atmosphere of celebration, laughter, dynamism and life, providing an important and unique insight into Bamako. Sidibé’s practice is recognized and exhibited internationally.