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Tributes pour in for pioneering Malian photographer Malick Sidibe

The photography world is paying tribute to Malick Sidibe, whose striking black-and-white images chronicled everyday life and pop culture in the years after Malian independence. He died late Thursday at the age of 80.

"It's a great loss for Mali. He was part of our cultural heritage," Mali's Culture Minister N'Diaye Ramatoulaye Diallo told the AFP news agency on Friday.

"The whole of Mali is in mourning."

Internationally acclaimed Malian photographer Malick Sidibe died late Thursday after a long illness, his family said.

Sidibe's dynamic photographs captured life in the Malian capital Bamako during the 1960s, after the country gained independence from France. His body of work depicted traditional society, as well as the burgeoning nightlife, music, youth and fashion culture of the time.

Sidibe, who has been described as "the father of African photography" and a "national treasure," became the first African to have a solo exhibition at the prestigious Grand Palais museum in Paris. Today his images are on display at museums and galleries around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Getty Museum.

Sidibe's nephew, Oumar Sidibe, said the photographer was "a model" for others.

"He was a pious man, who remained so modest despite his success," he said.

African photography pioneer

In 2003, Sidibe's work was recognized by the Hasselblad Foundation. Four years later he received the Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement at the 2007 Venice Biennale.

At the time, the event's artistic director, Robert Storr, said Sidibe had done more than any other African artist "to enhance photography's stature in the region, contribute to its history, enrich its image archive or increase our awareness of the textures and transformations of African culture in the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st."

Sidibe entered the field of photography in 1955 as an apprentice under Bamako-based French photographer Gerard Guillat. Three years later he opened his own studio.

Sidibe captured candid images in his studio, and also documented lively scenes on the streets of Bamako, at the beach and at sports events. He also routinely attended several parties a night and hung out at bars and clubs to photograph the city after dark.

"At night, from midnight to 4 a.m. or 6 a.m., I went from one party to another. I could go to four different parties," he said in one interview. He would take around 40 snaps at each party, and print the best of the lot.

Mali is planning to hold an official ceremony on Saturday to honor the photographer, his son Karim Sidibe said. Sidibe is survived by three wives and 17 children.