Mali bids final farewell to renowned photographer Malick Sidibe
By Joe Penney
BAMAKO (Reuters) - Mali bid a final farewell on Saturday to Malick Sidibe, an award-winning photographer considered a national treasure for his unique studio portraits and candid black-and-white depictions of popular culture in his West African homeland.
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 decorated artists.
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 Gallery.
"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 nation.