MALICK SIDIBÉ: Mali, Captured

Opening Reception: Saturday, April 14, 2012 (6-9 pm)
Exhibition Dates: April 14- June 03, 2012
Location: agnés b. boutique/gallery; 50 Howard Street, NYC, NY

Words: Zoy Britton

Noted Malian photographer Malick Sidibé is one of those artists who finds himself, most fortunately, with creative ambitions at crucial moments in history; in Malick’s case it was the onset of independence from colonial rule for many West African countries, a burden of heavy chains which Mali freed itself from in 1960.

Currently on view at the famed agnés b. boutique and gallery in Soho, New York City, Sidibé’s work magnificently outlines the Malian people’s sentiments at such a momentous time. Showcasing a selection of his photos from the 1960s and 1970s depicting street and nightlife as well as a chosen few that were taken in Sidibé’s studio in Bamako, Mali, the public show celebrates some of Sidibé’s finest work to date.

What’s most significant about his now infamous black and white portraits may be that they hearken back to an era when young Africans—in various states of celebration—found themselves rebelling against traditional forms in exchange for western sensibilities. In striking contrast, however, these same exuberant photos are set beside those of elders, whom proudly display their wealth as they sit heads held high, while donning various printed African garb to accentuate their social statures. And for a people who had long been held under the subservient colonial rule of the French, it is clear that the Malian spirit (as could be said about most of Africa)—young or old— cannot be quelled. Even in the muted excitement of the older generations, there is a sense of pride in their eyes, an unspoken certainty and fearless understanding that even with the colonial way of life toppled, it is left to their strength and perseverance as a community to keep these beasts from rising again.

Ironically, Sidibé first began as a photographer taking the personal photos of Mali’s most privileged. Changing one’s style of dress or hairstyle was an intricate and expensive process and could only be afforded by the wealthy. As such Sidibé was often called upon to document this material legacy from the base of his studio in Bamako. But it was Sidibé’s unique eye for detail and the “perfect moment” that eventually drew area youth to his doorstep. They respected his work and later invited him to their parties, where he captured images of them at their most pure: among friends.

It is in this capacity we are able to see the life and vitality of Mali then and now; the wave of raw emotion experienced in the wake of the country’s liberation. It is there that Malick sat as the country’s most prized photographer, enabled to play an important role in documenting a magnificent era of triumph. Some of our favorites images currently on display at agnés b. include Les Deux Amoureux devant leur Villa (1977) and Fans de James Brown (1965). As various parts of Africa currently seek to reclaim themselves, it’s quite timely that the agnès b. boutique and gallery would celebrate Monsieur Sidibé…good look.

Visit Malick Sidibé’s exhibit runs until June 3, 2012 at the agnès b. boutique and gallery located at 50 Howard Street, NYC. Details for the exhibit can be found on the gallery’s website HERE.

Follow agnès b. boutique and gallery on Twitter, @_AgnesB_

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