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Photographs by Malick Sidibé 10 November through 6 December 2008 University Art Gallery San Diego State University Special Events Friday, 21 November Malick Sidibé: Visualizing Identity Lecture by Candace M. Keller, brochure essayist Assistant Professor of Art History, Michigan State University 6:00 PM, Room 412 School of Art, Design and Art History Reception 7:30 to 9:00 PM University Art Gallery Gallery Hours Monday through Thursday and Saturday, noon to 4:00 PM Closed November 27 and 29 for the Thanksgiving holiday Information 619.594.5171 artgallery.sdsu.edu Photographs by Malick Sidibé is organized by Tina Yapelli, director of the University Art Gallery at San Diego State University. The exhibition includes 333 gelatin silver prints created from 1962 to 2003, all lent courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. The exhibition is sponsored by the School of Art, Design and Art History; the College of Professional Stud- ies and Fine Arts; and the fund for Instructionally Related Activities. Additional support is provided by the San Diego State University Art Council, a community support group of the School of Art, Design and Art History. Sincere gratitude is expressed to Malick Sidibé for his compelling images that relate more than four decades of the personal stories and cultural history of Bamako, Mali. Special thanks are extended to Candace M. Keller for her scholarly contributions to this project; to Jack Shainman, Claude Simard, Katie Rashid, Brooke Mellen, Amalia Mariño, Sabrina Vanderputt and Joeonna Bellorado-Samuels at Jack Shainman Gallery for their invaluable and patient assistance; and to the Fall 2008 students of Gallery Exhibition Design for their participation in the complex installation of the exhibition. Cover and interior leaf art from a picture frame by Checkna Touré. Design by Monika Lemp, Instructional Technology Services, SDSU. Printed on recycled paper by Neyenesch Printers, Inc.

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  • Photographs by Malick Sidibé

    10 November through 6 December 2008 University Art Gallery

    San Diego State University

    Special Events Friday, 21 November

    Malick Sidibé: Visualizing Identity Lecture by Candace M. Keller, brochure essayist

    Assistant Professor of Art History, Michigan State University 6:00 pm, Room 412 • School of Art, Design and Art History

    Reception 7:30 to 9:00 pm

    University Art Gallery

    Gallery Hours Monday through Thursday and Saturday, noon to 4:00 pm Closed November 27 and 29 for the Thanksgiving holiday

    Information 619.594.5171 • artgallery.sdsu.edu

    Photographs by Malick Sidibé is organized by Tina Yapelli, director of the University Art Gallery at San Diego State University. The exhibition includes 333 gelatin silver prints created from 1962 to 2003, all lent courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. The exhibition is sponsored by the School of Art, Design and Art History; the College of Professional Stud-ies and Fine Arts; and the fund for Instructionally Related Activities. Additional support is provided by the San Diego State University Art Council, a community support group of the School of Art, Design and Art History.

    Sincere gratitude is expressed to Malick Sidibé for his compelling images that relate more than four decades of the personal stories and cultural history of Bamako, Mali. Special thanks are extended to Candace M. Keller for her scholarly contributions to this project; to Jack Shainman, Claude Simard, Katie Rashid, Brooke Mellen, Amalia Mariño, Sabrina Vanderputt and Joeonna Bellorado-Samuels at Jack Shainman Gallery for their invaluable and patient assistance; and to the Fall 2008 students of Gallery Exhibition Design for their participation in the complex installation of the exhibition.

    Cover and interior leaf art from a picture frame by Checkna Touré. Design by Monika Lemp, Instructional Technology Services, SDSU. Printed on recycled paper by Neyenesch Printers, Inc.

  • San Diego State University

    University Art GallerySchool of Art, Design and Art History5500 Campanile DriveSan Diego, California 92182–4805

    Return service requested

    Parking permits are required during regular Gallery hours. Permits are available at the Gallery and are valid only in Parking Structure 8, in spaces marked “SP 160.” Permits are not required during special event hours in Parking Structure 8; use spaces marked “SP 160” and “SP 400” only.

    Nonprofit OrganizationU.S. Postage

    PAID

    San Diego, California

    Permit No. 265

  • Photographs by Malick Sidibé

    10 November through 6 December 2008

    University Art Gallery San Diego State University

  • Malick Sidibé was born in 1936 in Soloba, a small rural town in the West African nation of Mali.1 At a young age, his artistic acumen was recognized by the French colonial administration, which governed the country from the 1890s until 1960, when Mali gained political independence. In 1952 then-Governor Emile Louveau enrolled Sidibé in the École des Artisans Soudanais (School of Sudanese Craftsmen), now the Institute National des Arts (National Art Institute), in the capital city of Bamako. When Sidibé graduated from the college in 1955, he began working in the city for French photographer Gérard Guillat-Guignard at his commercial studio and supply store Photo Service. Over time, the young apprentice taught himself how to develop and print negatives and, eventually, assumed responsibility for all reportage commissions the business received from its West African clientele.2 For these assignments, Sidibé visited public and private venues such as hotels, restaurants and homes to record weddings and other celebrations. In 1956 Sidibé bought his first camera, and by the following year he had become, in his words, a “full-time” photographer.3

    After accepting his first apprentice, his cousin Sidiki Sidibé, Malick Sidibé left Photo Service in 1962. Taking most of its African clientele with him, he opened Studio Malick in Bagadadji, a popular neighborhood of Bamako. During its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s, the studio bustled with customers — its busiest occasions being evenings, weekends and holidays. Alongside studio portraits, his commissions included reportage photographs of weddings, baptisms, surprise parties and picnics along the Niger River, as well as documentary photographs of railroad, highway and architectural construction. In addition to private commissions, Sidibé captured national political and cultural events with his camera, and indulged his personal interests by photographing rural events and neighborhood children. However, he is most well-known for party photos that showcase his capacity to artfully frame bodies in motion (image 1); he also enjoys studio work, where he feels his artistry is best creatively expressed.4 Consequently, these latter two categories of images comprise the bulk of his archive and the focus of the current exhibition, which includes examples of his portraiture taken between 1962 and 2003. The title of this retrospective, Regardez-moi! (Look at Me!), pays homage to Sidibé’s own use of the phrase as a recurring image title and highlights the importance of self-identity in his portraiture, while honoring the multitude of patrons who have fueled his life’s work over the past forty years.

    Photographs by Malick Sidibé

    Organized by Tina Yapelli

    Essay by Candace M. Keller

    University Art Gallery San Diego State University

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  • During the era of Mali’s political independence from France in the early 1960s, portrait photography flourished as a personal, social and political venue for individuals from multiple classes to express their self-determination and self-creation. Often with the use of props, Malick Sidibé enabled his patrons to self-consciously create, display and record various aspects of their identities, including their economic and social status, profession, political alliance, religious affiliation and ethnicity. For example, to emphasize the Islamic faith of a Moorish woman, Sidibé pictured her seasted behind a tea service — a common prop in portraits of Muslims in Mali. At the same time, her right forearm has been extended to reveal an imported wristwatch, drawing attention to her modernity and her elevated economic status (image 3).

    Portraiture also allowed Sidibé’s clientele to commemorate special occasions, preserve their latest fashions and trends on film, and capture themselves looking their best. Donning new outfits, hairstyles and accessories, they arrived at the studio with the desire to immortalize an idealized image of themselves (image 4). As an artist, Sidibé developed ways to visually flatter his patrons in photographs. In the studio, he created lighting that was bright enough to render skin paler — an aesthetic ideal for most of the population — yet modeled the face naturally, without a great deal of contrast. He took similar considerations into account in the darkroom, where achieving a lighter skin tone and smooth complexion remained predominant criteria. In addition, unlike many of his West African colleagues, Sidibé intentionally conveyed a sense of gaiety and playfulness in his images by encouraging his clients to smile, at times using humor to help them relax and enjoy themselves before the camera.5

    As Sidibé’s portraits attest, photographic settings became more intimate during this era. They often featured home interiors and recreational locales — reflecting the interests and activities of his predominantly youthful clientele, as well as advances in camera technology that rendered it increasingly affordable, accessible and portable. Young photographers, including Sidibé, were often active participants in the social circles they depicted. For instance, in the early 1960s, Sidibé’s images captured the ecstatic energy of Bamako’s youth — his peers — celebrating Mali’s political independence, while expressing their individuality and experiencing new public social interaction at neighborhood parties and dances (front cover). Participating in an international youth revolution, as Malian scholar Manthia Diawara has argued, these individuals rallied behind rock ’n’ roll and rhythm and blues, actively pursuing social liberties and recent trends promoted by performers such as James Brown.6

    In the era of repressive socialism under President Modibo Keïta that began around 1964, and in the succeeding period of military dictatorship under President Moussa Traoré from 1968 to 1991, Sidibé’s photographs represented the irreverent attitudes and activities of young men and women in Bamako who were frustrated by restrictive governmental policies and acted defiantly against them. Violating curfew, they organized and attended late-night parties. They wore provocative Western clothing and continued to access consumer goods such as records and alcohol, at times illegally. Diawara recalls, “curfews were set and youths caught wearing miniskirts… bell-bottom pants, and Afro hairdos were sent to reeducation camps.”7 Similarly, Sidibé relates, “all was controlled and forced. Young people could feel free at the parties because they were not free the rest of the time.”8 Thus, unlike independence-era photographs, portraits made by Sidibé (and his apprentices), during the late 1960s and ’70s depict young people enjoying freedoms that they attained largely through recalcitrant means (back cover).

    Though Sidibé’s portraits, both in and out of the studio, were intended to capture and enhance a client’s attractiveness and prestige, they were also designed to preserve and project signif-icant aspects of one’s character and interpersonal relationships. The local significance of these latter qualities can be understood best through a discussion of the complementary concepts of

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  • badenya and fadenya — terms that derive from Bamanankan, the most commonly spoken Malian language, and polygamous practice.

    Badenya literally translates as “mother-child- ness,” an idea that refers to the camaraderie,

    loyalty and respect between children who have the same mother and father. By contrast, fadenya is translated as “father-child-ness,” a concept that refers to the competition, rivalry and jealousy that often occurs between siblings who share a father but have different mothers. Within the context of society at large, fadenya is understood as individual competitiveness and the struggle to build one’s own identity and reputation — traits often associated with youth. Badenya is interpreted as communal cohesion and the quest for stability and harmony in social life, which includes the supportive and reciprocal relationships that exist between select friends, family members, colleagues and partners.

    Sidibé employed a variety of compositional strategies to assist his clients’ expression of badenya relationships and fadenya individuality in their portraits. To emphasize badenya in photographs of couples or groups, he presented individuals close together, often touching, in unifying arrangements. This practice is evident in his depictions of grins, or neighborhood social clubs, which Sidibé has described as “solid badenya relationships [and] helpful networks”9 (image 5). Most of Sidibé’s young clientele, however, wanted their portraits to convey their fadenya attitudes and cosmopolitan sensibilities. This desire was particularly true for kamalenbaw, “playboys,” who sought representations of themselves that evoked affluence, which they achieved in part through the incorporation of Western commodities, such as French-made mopeds (image 9). Sidibé remarked,“…the mere fact that [an item] came from the West gave the wearer a certain kind of power...”11 Exhibiting the latest fashions, these young trendsetters alternately appear aloof to the camera or directly engage it. Directed by Sidibé, they assume strong postures and cool expressions. Often with their faces partially obscured behind heavily tinted sunglasses, they are regularly pictured with accessories that suggest a rebellious attitude (image 6). In some instances, kamalenbaw emulate popular fictional characters in their portraits — commonly fadenya-oriented men who embody fortitude and stark

    individuality, and display an identifiably unique style. For example, often with the aid of studio props, these “playboys” could portray themselves as heroic protagonists in spy films and Spaghetti Westerns), which were screened in the capital’s frequented movie theaters.

    Thus, portraiture offered a means for individuals in Bamako to express their dreams and realities, to memorialize important events and to capture aspects of their individual identity and intimate relationships over their lifetimes, preserving those moments for future remembrance. Moreover, although Sidibé’s photographs are artistic creations, as commissioned images they were predominantly personal items that were kept in family albums, placed in picture frames decorating the home or given as keepsakes and gifts to family and friends (image 7). Colorfully painted glass frames were commonly available in the capital during the 1970s and ’80s, and can still be found there today. Over the years, Sidibé has developed a working relationship with his neighborhood frame-maker, Checkna Touré, who created all of the examples featured in this exhibition (images 2, 3, 7, 8).12

    During the 1990s, African photography caught the attention of Western collectors, dealers and curators, and thereby gained much recognition in the international art community. Since that time, Sidibé and his work have become world-renowned. His photographs — now enlarged and reprinted — have been exhibited in numerous venues worldwide and have been published in various articles, books and exhibition catalogues. Due to this popularity, over the past fifteen years Sidibé has been commissioned to take fashion photographs for designers in Paris and for French magazines such as Vogue, Elle, Cosmo-politan and Double, Nouveau Feminine. Sidibé is also esteemed by the general population in Bamako and by members of the photographic community throughout Mali and neighboring countries in West Africa. Since 1995, he has served as the President of the Groupement National des Photographes Professionels du Mali (National Association of Professional Malian Photographers), which was established in Bamako in 1988. Furthermore, he has participated in several local educational programs designed to teach photography to young Malians.

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  • Today, Sidibé continues to experiment with inventive ideas and new photographic genres, such as the Vue de Dos (Back View) series that he began in the 1960s. Inspired by the manner in which French and American actors in films of the 1940s through ’60s would exit

    a scene, he first employed rear view poses in his portraits of kamalenbaw as a means to convey their stylish, independent, fade-nya attitude. Later, at the turn of the new millennium, he began creating Vue de Dos images as a continuing series intended for Western audiences (image 8). For these photographs, he solicits friends, neighbors and family members to serve as models who receive a generous percentage of the profits upon the sale of their image.13 In this vein, he has worked with widows,

    orphans and single mothers as a form of community service. The entirety of each image is choreographed by Sidibé, who selects and arranges the attire, pose, backdrop and flooring. By withholding a great amount of expected information, Vue de Dos images create a visual and psychological aura of mystery that piques the viewer’s imagination. To intensify the visual energy of some of these photographs, Sidibé deliberately juxtaposes boldly patterned cloth in the background, flooring, and sitter’s clothing. Through these images, Sidibé states that these un-exoticized individuals are worthy of attention, yet have the power to deny foreigners clear or easy access into their world.

    For his contributions to the development of photography, both at home and abroad, Sidibé has earned prestigious international recognition. In 2003 he became the first African photographer to garner the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography. Four years later, he received the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 2007 Venice Biennale. Most recently, the International Center of Photography in New York City honored the artist with a Lifetime Achievement accolade during its 24th Annual Infinity Award ceremony in 2008.

    Still, there is more to come from Malick Sidibé. At seventy-two, the artist remains hard at work at Studio Malick developing innovative projects and planning future exhibitions.

    Candace M. Keller, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of art history at Michigan State University and author of the dissertation: “Visual Griots: Social, Political, and Cultural Histories in Mali through the Photographer’s Lens.”

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    Notes 1 Malick Sidibé, interview by author, tape recording, Bamako, 27 November 2003. Several published sources, as well as Sidibé’s Curriculum Vitae, have erroneously noted 1935 as the year of his birth. However, he has stated that 1936 is his accurate birth year, though he has not attempted to correct the mistake due to the great popularity of the monographs Malick Sidibe by André Magnin, published in 1998, and Malick Sidibé — Photographs, produced in conjunction with the exhibition Malick Sidibé — 2003 Hasselblad Award Winner.

    2 Sidibé, interview by author, tape recording, Bamako, 14 July 2004; and interview by Simon Njami, in “The Movement of Life,” in ¡Flash Afrique! Photography from West Africa, eds. Gerald Matt and Thomas Meißgang, 94-6 (Göttingen: Steidl Publishers, 2002), 95. 3 Sidibé, interview by author, tape recording, Bamako, 26 November 2003. In Malick Sidibé — Photographs, Sidibé is quoted as saying that he purchased his first camera in 1955. 4 Sidibé, interview by author, tape recording, Bamako, 27 November 2003. 5 Sidibé, interview by André Magnin, in “In my life, as in photography, I have told the truth and I have given my all,” in Malick Sidibé—Photographs, 75-81, ed. Hasselblad Center (Göttingen: Steidl Publishers, 2003), 77. 6 Manthia Diawara, “The 1960s in Bamako: Malick Sidibé and James Brown,” in Everything but the Burden: What White People Are Taking from Black Culture, ed. Greg Tate, 164-190 (New York: Broadway Books, 2003). 7 Diawara, “The 1960s in Bamako,” 171. 8 Sidibé, interview by author, tape recording, Bamako, 7 July 2004. 9 Sidibé, interview by author, tape recording, Bamako, 26 November 2003.10 Sidibé in Michelle Lamunière, You Look Beautiful Like That: The Portrait Photographs of Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 55.11 Sidibé, interview by author, transcript, Bamako, 27 August 2004; and Sitou, personal communication, San Diego, 21 October 2006. 12 Sidibé, interview by author, tape recording, Bamako, 7 July 2004.

    Images 1 Nuit de Noël (Happy-club) [(Christmas Eve (Happy-club)], 1963/2008, 39¼ x 39¼ 2 Untitled, 1976/2004, 7 x 5 3 La Femme Mauresque - Thé (The Moorish Woman - Tea), 1976/2004, 7¼ x 5¼ 4 Avec mon nouveau sac, ma bague et mon bracelet (With My New Bag, My Ring and My Bracelet), circa 1975/2002, 18 x 18 5 Los Sabena-club (The Sabena-club), 1966/2002, 21¼ x 14 6 Le Faux Marin (The Fake Sailor), 1975/2007, 8½ x 8½ 7 Untitled, no date/2004, 5¼ x 7¼ 8 Vue de Dos (Back View), 2001/2003, 8½ x 6¼ 9 Nous deux en Mobylette (The Two of Us on a Moped), 1973/2002, 18 x 18

    Front cover Regardez-moi! (Look at Me!), 1962/2008, 8 x 8

    Back cover Soirée Familiale (Family Party), 1966/2008, 8 x 8