After the recycling market
After the recycling market the group split up. Some went to visit the studio of Aboubakar Fofanna, artist and designer specialized in indigo; others went to a crafts market and a large group went back to the Musee National du Mali to see the exhibitions that we had to skip yesterday and to meet with director Samuel Sidibe. And – also worth a mention – to sit down and enjoy yet another very nice and much needed ‘plat du jour’ in the shadow at the museum’s restaurant (Malinese food is excellent).
To be out of the bus and get closer to the city in taxis added to the experience of Bamako. The taxi’s don’t come with accessories such as seat belts but you feel safe and well taken care of.
Several people from the group went to visit Mr. Abdoulaye Konaté whom we also met yesterday in the role of Director of the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers Multimédia. Today’s visit was about Mr. Konaté the artist. He studied in Mali and Cuba and specialized in painting but for many years his primary material has been textile – many different kinds and techniques. Why? The pragmatic answer is that even for professional artist like Konaté it is extremely difficult to get hold of proper quality oil and acrylic paint in Mali. And while these materials are simply not here – and never really were – textiles are everywhere in Mali (as in many African countries) where there is a long tradition for textile production and decoration. “Every continent has developed its art with the materials that can be found on that continent”, as Konaté said, and – without being insistent in the stubborn sense – he finds it important to be true to the context he’s based in.
We were presented to a number of his large textile pieces – the kind of pieces that has been exhibited in numerous solo and group shows in Africa and Europe. For example the traveling exhibition Africa Remix in 2005 and Documenta 12 in 2007 to mention a few of the larger shows.
The textile pieces are all loaded with political and social issues. Not only African issues, but global issues. Some of the works deal directly with the Israel-Palestine conflict while others deal with (im)migration, environmental concerns, AIDS, wars etc., and Konaté is currently working on a piece that sets off with the fruit seller in Tunesia who recently set himself on fire and ignited people’s uprisings in several north African countries. Asked, however, Mr. Konaté answered “no” with a grin when asked if he is a political artist. “A socially engaged one, yes”, he added.
Bla Bla Bar
We had dinner at Bla Bla Bar. A trendy and popular restaurant and bar – not least among other Lonely Planet-reading tourists – which is decorated by Malinese artist Amara Sylla aka Amsyl, whom we met at the dinner yesterday. The interimistic lamps made of various colorful plastic plates and bowls is the interior’s most notable feature together with all the vintage chairs in the cozy ‘shabby chic’ style courtyard.
Mali is famous for its music and it would be strange to leave without taking a listen. On advice we ended the evening at the live music venue/club The Diplomat where we were spoiled with an extensive line-up of talented musicians and fusions of traditional Malinese rhythms and instruments (such as the Kora) and more familiar reggae-ish beats and a rhythm section with electric bass, guitar, keyboard and drums. Dance-provoking indeed but the packed dance floor turned out to be quite ‘stating the obvious’-provoking as well… in this context, white men can’t dance.