Editor’s note: Malick Sidibé passed April 15, 2016 so we’re republishing our 2012 photoessay of his work we collaborated on with Sidibé’s gallery in Paris. Rest in Peace.
From Rose Skelton’s feature on her chance encounter with the son and the studio of the master: Malick Sidibé.
“I was a journalist, but that wasn’t all. I was a journalist with a long-held admiration for Karim’s father. The reason I knew about Mali was largely because of his father, and because I knew about Mali, I also knew about Senegal, and there I had spent more than a decade of my life living. Senegal was the spinning top around which everything else in my life was balanced, and in part I owed that to Malick.
When I was at university in London, Malick Sidibe and another Malian portrait photographer, Seydou Keita, had an exhibition, and Sidibe came to speak about the collection. The exhibition had this amazing name: ‘You look beautiful like that’. The title came from a Bambara saying, but it also perfectly described the photographers’ ethic. Looking beautiful was the entire aim of their work, but it wasn’t shallow beauty. In their moment of history, beauty was political. It meant taking a people who had been, up until then, presented by the white man as savages, and showing them on their own terms, in their own style.