On Malick Sidibé’s Twist Avec Ray Charles (1969/2008, gelatin silver print)
Africa in Stereo’s cover image most directly evokes the fourth chapter, “What Women Want: Selling Hi-Fi in Consumer Magazines and Film.” The image is a photograph taken in 1969 by Malick Sidibé, the noted studio photographer from Mali. The photograph shows a young woman proudly displaying an album cover inviting us all to “Dansez le Twist! avec Ray Charles.” The album, a French pressing, was issued in 1962 by Atlantic (332044) as a reissue of a compilation album that had appeared the previous year in the U.S. Ironically the album did not include “The Twist,” the song made famous by Chubby Checker’s 1960 hit, but rather a selection of previously issued songs by Ray Charles.
Laying claim to both the act of listening and the technological means to do so, she meets our gaze confidently, her head cocked coyly to one side. Her sense of fashion marries the elegant cut of her long fitted spaghetti-strapped dress with the busy, geometric, modish pattern of its fabric; a feathered hat adds a touch of extravagance to her look. Although she is standing in a corner, there is no sense in which she looks cornered. Rather, she seems ready to negotiate the rapid changes of postcolonial life with the agility and energy of the Twist. In the fourth chapter, I am interested in women like Sidibé’s modelconsumers and participants in the leisure world of the L.P, the radio, the magazine, the cinema.
I am deeply grateful to the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery for permission to use this marvelous image.