– A great photograph, taken by Malick Sidibé in Bamako on Christmas day 1963.
“It’s a Christmas party; quite late, you’d imagine. The picture shows a young black couple. She’s barefoot in her best sixties frock, he’s in loafers and a snappy white suit. They’re jiving together – not quite touching, yet, but with their heads dipped in close, both faces lit up with shy, almost disbelieving smiles. It’s an astonishing photograph, full of intimacy and energy, joy and anticipation, taken in 1963 by the Malian photographer, Malick Sidibé, known as The Eye Of Bamako.
Like all Sidibé’s work, it captures the pride and exuberance of a generation of young Africans during two decades of momentous – and euphoric – social and cultural change.
The arrival of the twist, the cha cha cha and rock’n’roll in Mali in the late 1950s, and independence from France in 1960, proved a heady cocktail. Bamako’s nights got hot. The boys formed clubs to impress the girls: the Sputniks, the Wild Cats, the Black Socks. “We were entering a new era, and people wanted to dance,” Sidibé says. “Music freed us. Suddenly, young men could get close to young women, hold them in their hands. Before, it was not allowed. And everyone wanted to be photographed dancing up close. They had to see it!”