From humble beginnings in Mali's capital Bamako, Sidibe, who
died at the age of 80 on Thursday, rose over the course of a
career that spanned six decades to become one of Africa's most
Hundreds of people - from Mali's arts scene, Sidibe's family and
the government - gathered on a football pitch in Daoudabougou,
the Bamako neighborhood where he lived much of his life in a
modest house among extended family.
Soldiers saluted his body, which was wrapped in a cloth
according to Muslim tradition and draped in Mali's tricolor flag
of green, yellow and red.
"He's a piece of world heritage. It's not just Bamako, or Mali,
or Africa," said Igo Diarra, director of Bamako's Medina
"He was always accessible, always smiling and generous. He told
people to always be very honest in their art and not follow what
is fashionable, but instead to concentrate on their work and do
what they love," he said.
Sidibe's instantly recognizable images from the 1950s and 60s of
sharply dressed teenagers twisting on nightclub dance floors or
mugging for the camera in bathing suits captured Mali's
transformation from a French colony to a modern independent
"IT'S A WORLD, SOMEONE'S FACE"
In the process, he shattered stereotypes of Africa and connected
it with the rest of the world.
"The youth he photographed shared the same struggles for
equality and freedom with black Americans, who listened to Sam
Cooke and Otis Redding and who danced," Malian art critic Chab
Toure told Reuters.
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Later, at a studio where he welcomed visitors even in the last years
of his life, he turned to portraits, meticulously positioning his
subjects before basic backgrounds in a style that was both simple
"To be a good photographer you need to have a talent to observe and
to know what you want," Sidibe told The Guardian newspaper in a 2010
interview. "Equally, you need to be friendly, sympathique. It's very
important to be able to put people at their ease. It's a world,
Sidibe meticulously archived his photographs and he had already
accumulated a sizeable body of work when his art began gaining
international recognition in the 1990s, a period when Malian
painters and musicians were also breaking out.
His images have since been exhibited around the world, including at
New York's Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art as
well as the Barbican Art Gallery in London and the Guggenheim Museum
in Bilbao, Spain.
In 2007, he became both the first photographer and the first African
to win the Venice Biennale's lifetime achievement award. He was also
honored with a Hasselblad Award, a lifetime achievement award from
the International Center of Photography and a World Press Photo
(Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Gareth Jones)
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