“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.

As I walked in, I was hit by a wave of excitement due to the music I was hearing, which was a soundtrack specially created by DJ Rita Ray, to accompany the Malik Sidibe exhibition at Somerset House. I literally felt a sense of déjà vu.   

The collection has the most breathtaking black and white photographs, taken in the 1960s and 70s documenting the youth culture as Mali was gaining its independence. The exhibition is broken into three parts; Tiep à Bamako / Nightlife in Bamako, Au Fleuve Niger / Beside the Niger River and Le Studio / The Studio. Even as I look through the photos, I can’t decide which one is my favourite.

Tiep à Bamako was amazing to me because of the fashion (no surprise), Au Fleuve Niger looked like the fun I wish I had when I was younger and Le Studio was fascinating because Malians were looking to make a statement through the photos that Sidibe took. Three different scenarios but one clear message. Malians were ready to be free.

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