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Indepth Arts News:

2000-03-09 until 2000-04-16
Houston, TX, USA United States of America

Rice University Art Gallery, in collaboration with The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), will present Clubs of Bamako an exhibition of sixteen black and white photographs of the night club scene in Bamako, Mali in the 1960s and 1970s, by Malian photographer Malick Sidibé. The photographs will be shown with eleven life-size sculptures by contemporary Ivory Coast sculptors Emile Guebehi, Koffi Kouakou, and Coulibaly Siaka Paul. The exhibition at the Rice Gallery has been planned to correspond with the opening of the MFAH's new Audrey Jones Beck Building. The exhibition will be on view from March 9 - April 16, 2000. The opening celebration will take place on March 16 from 5:30-7:30 and will include live music and dancing.

The late 1950s and early 1960s marked the end of colonial rule for much of Africa. With this new freedom came a reexamination of the basis for national and cultural identities that were hybrids of African and Western influences. Malick Sidibé's photographs capture the vibrancy of this transitional moment. The Malian night life he documented was especially lively in this era, when clubs with names like the Happy Boys Club and Les Surfs played music ranging from Miles Davis and James Brown to local top-of-the-chart hits like Mali Twist by Boubacar Traoré, popularly known as Kar Kar. The clothing worn by Sidibé's club-goers -- miniskirts, bell bottoms and turbans fashioned of wildly patterned local fabrics -- equally reveals a culture entrenched in two histories. Sidibé's interest in the scene stemmed not from the viewpoint of a detached observer, but from his desire to experience the most joyful and frivolous moments so that I could take the pictures I liked. The result, says NY Arts magazine critic Horace Brockington, was that the clubs and dance halls became his laboratory for photographic experimentation rather than cultural exploitation.

Adding to the dynamism of Sidibé's photographs are eleven life-size, polychrome wooden sculptures that, along with music of the era, will bring the club scene alive in the gallery space. Guebehi, Kouakou and Siaka Paul chose individuals portrayed in Sidibé's images and rendered them as free-standing, three dimensional figures frozen in mid-movement. Koffi Kouakou's carving, of a tall African gentleman dressed in a black suit and top hat, stands with legs crossed as if prepared to pivot momentarily. Coulibaly Siaka Paul depicts a couple who, while dancing with one another, are simultaneously absorbed in their own movements. Emile Guebehi's woman in a brightly striped miniskirt, appears to be moving to a beat that is invisibly present in all of the figures. In the company of Sidibé's photographs, the sculptures, according to New York Times art critic Holland Cotter, feel fresh, vital, and larger than life, but also rooted in time and place.

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