Photographer Malick Sidibé is best known for his photographic documentation of Bamako’s underground nightlife in the years following Mali’s independence in 1960. Donning miniskirts and blasting early funk music, young people embraced an increasingly globalized cultural scene that rebelled against the new government’s push for stability and tradition through curfews and dress codes. Sidibé did not initially consider his portraiture as “high art,” nor did he intend it to portray overt social statements. Rather, he viewed his work as a humble way to facilitate his subjects’ confidence and concretize personal memories in the wake of a newly liberated nation establishing its own cultural and political identity.
For decades, Sidibé’s work was not valued as art, much like how art history often dismisses frames as purely functional. However, the painted glass frames by Checkna Touré, whose nearby shop produced many frames for Sidibé’s photographs, captures the era’s vibrant energy—its sights, sounds, and spirit. In the frame for this untitled photograph, the yellow and green leaves, refusing to be constrained to their black outlines, make tangible the subject’s glimmer of mischievous joy. Or, perhaps the rhythmic color pattern resembles the boisterous beats of James Brown singing about Black pride. Even the tape lining the frame provides an uneven, casual foundation similar to funk’s danceable emphasis on the downbeat. Touré’s frames evoke countless sense-based experiences for this new generation of post-independent, youthful Malians as they craft an attitude entirely their own.