This picture was taken on Christmas 1963 in Bamako, probably very late at night, given the empty bottles on the floor that can be discerned in the background. In the centre, an African couple is dancing. She is barefoot and wearing her best dress, he is wearing loafers and a smart white suit. Their heads close together, they smile and dance to the rhythm of western music, probably rock’n roll or the twist.
This striking photo is full of intimacy, verve and joie de vivre. It was taken by photographer Malick Sidibé on one of his tours of the booming nightlife in Mali’s capital at the beginning of the 1960s. Sidibé is one of the few who captured the blossoming lifestyle of a new, self-confident generation of Africans liberated from colonialism, with a passion for western fashion and exuberant parties: lanky men in perfectly tailored bell-bottoms and platform shoes are enjoying the company of pretty women in glittering mini-skirts and fashionable sandals. Sidibé, who was part of this new youth culture himself, took photos of several parties every night, developing them at dawn in his studio and selling them the next day – like hot cakes. “Music freed us,” he has said. “All of a sudden, young men were allowed to approach young women and hold them in their arms. This was not allowed before. Everyone wanted to have a photo taken of themselves dancing so closely. And then they wanted to see the pictures immediately!”