In november 2009 Tim Vermeulen (Premsela Foundation) and Haco de Ridder (Mondriaan Foundation) made a research trip to Dakar and Bamako. Tim Vermeulen’s blog can be found here (in Dutch).
Tim and I had breakfast on the roof of our hotel and left for our appointment with fashion designer Oumou Sy at her space Metissacana, unfortunately Oumou Sy wasn’t their so we went for a walk true a the City. We visited the Institut Francais, who have an impressive range of activities, this and next month, as part of 50 years of independence of Senegal.
At noon we went to café de Rome were we had a meeting with the Dutch Erik Pol, from Pols Potten in Amsterdam. Erik, since many years, lives in Dakar and has a production company were they produce wooden furniture with local craftsman. Erik is a great informant and guide to go around Dakar.
Together with Erik we went to the shop of Aissa Dione, who started an interior design company called Aissa Dione Tissus and today has 100 employees creating new textiles. Aissa Dion pushes the boundaries of Senegalese textiles through crafts, design and manufacturing. Later that evening we had the change to meet her personally.
Gallery Le Manege
At the gallery of the Institut Francais we met with Delphine Calmettes who is responsible for the IF exhibitions. She gave us a lot of information on the design and fashion scene in Dakar. One project that interested us in particular was the exhibition prêt-à-partager. The prêt-à-partager exhibition is a transnational artistic dialogue on fashion, sport, Africa and its Diaspora.
The artworks presented in the exhibition originated in the prêt-à-partager workshop in Dakar in November 2008. The exhibition which was curated by Elke aus dem Moore and Sandrine Micosse will go on a two-year tour of different countries in West, East and South Africa.
Now showing at the gallery is the artist Amadou Sow.
To have an idea of life in Africa you have to visit a market.
Ndiaga Diaw and Cheikha
Today we visited two young fashion designers based in Dakar, Ndiaga Diaw and Cheikha. Both participated in the exhibition prêt-à-partager.
Ndiaga Diaw and Cheikha are fashion designers who give fashion in Senegal a new look.
A taxi takes us to Mauro Petroni, an Italian who has been living in Dakar for almost 20 years now.
Mauro has a ceramic workshop, Ceramiques des Almadies and the leading man behind the organisation of the Dakar biennial Off-program. He shares his worry’s about next years organisation of the Biennial and the fact that the EU will not support next years biennial. I do hope that Dakar will still be able to have a good Biennial.
Le Village d’Art
Cheikha advices us to visit the “le Village d’Art”, a small artist village situated in complete tranquillity. The complex was originally built for Chinese workers who were building a bridge. We visit some studios and even talk with an artist who visited the Rijksakademie for a talk he gave on African art.
Ousmane M’Baye & Johanna Bramble
After breakfast Tim and I walk to the working space of the famous Senegalese designer Ousmane M’Baye. Ousmane makes furniture made of barrel and galvanise iron. Unfortunately he has left for France but our next meeting is with his good friend Johanna Bramble, a textile designer and creator of hand-made fabrics. After a look on the terrace from were we have a great view of our hotel, we return for our meeting with Koyo.
Koyo Kouoh invited us at her house for lunch. Koyo Kouoh is a curator and cultural manager. She is the founder and director of RAW MATERIAL COMPANY, a mobile site for art practice and critical exchange. From 1998-2002 she was the coordinator of Cultural Programs at the Gorée Institute. She collaborated with the Dakar Biennale of Art from 2000-2004 and co-curated the Rencontres de la Photographie Africaine in Bamako in 2001 and 2003. She served as advisor to the artistic director for documenta 12and curated Philip Aguirre’s project “Gaal Gui” for the Beaufort Triennale 03. Her latest exhibition ‘Hypocrisy: the Sitespecificity of Morality’ co-curated with Stina Högkvist was on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Oslo. Currently she is working on ‘Make Yourself at Home’ an exhibition and community program for Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen and Geo-Graphics in Brussels. At Koyo house we have a very nice ending of our stay in Dakar meeting some very nice people: her son and daughter, the American writer and professor at Indiana university Eileen Julien and the architect Jean Charles Tall. Our lunch is an a beautiful presented fish called ‘Capitain’.
Eileen Julien recently published a book about her childhood in New Orleans called “Travels with Mae – scenes from a New Orleans girlhood”. Koyo tells us about her plans to start a contemporary art space in Dakar, she’s currently talking with different foundations to explore the possibilities. It sounds like a very interesting plan and I think it would be good for Dakar if a place like this could be realised.
Jean Charles brings us to the airport to take our plane to Bamako, Mali.
From all over Dakar you see this enormous sculpture called “Renaissance”. It is made for the 50 years of independence.
After arriving in Bamako and checking in at our hotel Tim and I have a drink at the BLABLA.
Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers Multimedia
Our first appointment is with Abdoulaye Konate, director of the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers Multimedia and artist, who participated in many shows such as Africa Remix. Abdoulaye Konate takes us for a walk true this amazing and professional building.
The school houses about 50 students and has teachers from different parts of the world.
Lessons are given in: music, dans, theatre, visual arts, multimedia and arts management.
Mister Konate is so kind to drive us to the National Museum of Mali.
Conservatoire des Arts, Bamako
National Museum of Mali
The National Museum of Mali is a vibrant cultural institution, playing a major role in the prevention of cultural looting and trafficking in the region, it educates local communities, and preserves and interprets local aesthetic heritage.
As it’s director mister Samuel Sidibee is on a trip to Europe we talk with the photographer Alioune Ba about the museum and the organisation of this years photo Biennale, Bamako Encounters.
Alioune Ba is a photographer who also the is director of the Seydou Keita Association, a photographic gallery and resource centre named after the legendary Malian photographer. Bâ ‘s work was first encountered by the west in 1994 during the Bamako arts summits.
African Photography Biennial
This year, the African Photography Biennial explores the theme of “Borders”, artificial or natural, and will be comprised of a Pan-African exhibition of recent photography and video work by established artists, from Kader Attia, Majida Khattari, Zineb Sedira and Barthelemy Toguo, to emerging talents like Mohamed Bourrouissa, Mohamed Camara, Andrew Esiebo and Baudouin Mouanda.
The international exhibition, presented at the Musee National du Mali and featuring more than 50 artists will be completed by 5 solo shows by Angèle Etoundi Essamba (Cameroon), Hassan Hajjaj (Morocco), Patrizia Guerresi Maïmouna (Italy), Baudouin Mouanda (Congo) and Fazal Sheikh (USA).
Theme exhibitions will include, among others, the participation of Michael Stevenson Gallery with Nandipha Mntambo and Pieter Hugo and the showcase of “Luxury” by British artist Martin Parr, as part of a partnership between the Bamako Encounters and the Rencontres d’Arles, the famous French photography festival.
In total, more than 100 artists, 15 venues and a host of debates, workshops, portfolio reviews, photo studios and live events that promise, once more, to make the Malian capital the highlight of African photography. Before we leave Tim and I have our picture taken by two ladies who are having a mobile photo studio in the garden.
Santoro and Aminata Traoré
Santor is a restaurant and crafts shop in Bamako owned by Aminata Traoré. Unfortunately we were not able to meet this very important lady but had a change to meet her daughter later that day.
Aminata Traoré is a sociocultural activist who emphasises the interrelationship of economics, politics and culture. With a doctorate in social psychology and psychopathology, she was a founder member of African Women for Research and Development and consultant for many development institutions. She established a cultural training centre in Mali, stimulated activities in the field of textiles and design, and was Mali’s Minister of Tourism and Culture. Preferring to work more directly in poor urban areas, she emphasises self-sufficiency, use of local skills and materials, and mobilizes communities to build infrastructure, networks and enterprises.
Critical of neo-liberal economics, bad governance and donor dependency, Aminata Traoré is the founder and co-ordinator of the Forum for Another Mali and is an associate co-ordinator in the International Network for Cultural Diversity. She is active in international debates on another globalisation based on cultural and political creativity. Having published over 50 articles and books, she is remarkable for putting ideas into practice at local and global levels.
The Prince Claus Award honoured Aminata Traoré in 2005 for her bold and visionary leadership in empowering communities to find solutions within themselves and their culture.
One of the musicians working at Santoro walks us to an other beautiful space in Bamako, hotel Djenne, run by the daughter of Aminata Traore, Awa Meite.
Awa Meite is, besides the fact that she runs her mother hotel a designer and organiser of a festival in march next year. Theme of the festival is a village were she set up a cotton production village.
Awa largely draws her inspiration from African traditions to which she gives her personal touch, with her ever-present goal of valuing locally produced materials: Tuareg leather-work, Dogon silver threads, mats from Niger made out of natural fibers, traditional african bowls from Burkina Faso, etc. But cotton from Mali- her country of origin, and the leading producer of white gold in sub-Saharan Africa- is what he cherishes most, calling it “the most precious material that is”. The defining aspect of this artist’s work, her main commitment and passion: the promotion of a positive image of Africa, her many treasures, and her place in this world.
Year after year, Awa’s work has remained focused on the path of tradition, with a conscious effort to highlight the genius of African artisans (weavers, dyers, jewellers, shoemakers), all the while uncovering the world of contemporary design.
Awa takes us for a walk true her neighbourhood and shows her an open-air weaving studio. In the evening we are invited for diner by Meite and her Dutch husband. Awa also told us about the festival she is organising next year March called Daoula in a village called Cho, about 50 km. from Bamako.
But before our dinner appointment Tim and I have a look at the France Cultural Centre with an exhibition by France photographer Alain Turpault with an exhibition on albino’s in Africa.
This morning a taxi takes us to Kandioura Coulibaly and Kletigui Dembele who live on the other site of the Niger river. Kandioura house is like a small rundown museum but has a fascinating collection of jewellery, costumes, Bogolans and many objects.
The two artists are the initiator of the group Bogolan Kasobane, who since the eighties try to experiment with graphical art on Bogolans
Soleil d’Afrique is an artist association dedicated to artistic and cultural exchanges that are destined to promote young Malian visual artists. By emphasizing the accomplishments of young Malian artists within Malian border and abroad, Soleil d’Afrique aims to better their living conditions while allowing them to concentrate on the quality of their art.
Since ten years ago, Soleil d’Afrique is devoted to the promotion of Malian art in general and young Malian artist specifically. Through the creation of a center and by offering certain tools to young artists the association has enabled many to better develop their art, has permitted them to discover and be discovered through national and international workshops, trainings, exhibitions, and conferences. This is the main objective the Center strives to continuously achieve and surpass. Soleil d’Afrique is a member of Arts Collaboratory.
Unfortunately Malick Sidibe is not at his studio when Tim and I arrive but I feel very happy that I have seen the studio of this amazing man.
Tim and I have a walk in the neighbourhood of mister Sidibe’s studio and then, later that evening, I fly back to Amsterdam, leaving Tim behind who, unfortunately has his flight 4 hours later.