Malick Sidibé’s powerful portraits

Malick Sidibe chemises
How glad am I that I made it to the Malick Sidibé exhibition before it ends on Friday (16th April)!* The show of black and white portraits starts with a display of ‘chemises’, mini prints that serve as a kind of cataloguing system, one of the highlights of the exhibition.
Malick Sidibé chemises
Sidibé started taking pictures of local Malian merrymakers in 1960 when Mali became independent from France. They had just discovered luxury shops and western fashion and would dress up to the nines to have their outfits documented. Everything was about fashion and style, from the record sleeves they held in front of them to the way they held their cigarettes.

Sidibé would trawl from one trendy club to another all night snapping his subjects and then print in his lab until the morning. On Mondays and Tuesdays, the clubbers would stop by to see the results and generally hang out. They would also pose at ‘Studio Malick’ for more formal portraits. The loveliest part of this story is that to this day, Sidibé’s studio is still set up and the locals continue to stop by for a photo session. If you get the chance, do hurry to the exhibition this week (133 Oxford Gardens, W10, 07979 422000, 11am-6pm, [email protected]).

WORDS: Disneyrollergirl/Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGES: Disneyrollergirl; last two images from Italian Vogue. (Double click to enlarge)
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*UPDATE: The Malick Sidibé exhibition has been extended for two days until Sunday April 18th (11am-6pm).