at the bank of the Niger river
We just uploaded a video of our visit to the Festival Sur le Niger Foundation and their brand new cultural centre in Segou. Click here to see the video.
After an almost 5 hour-long bus ride through the impressive landscape we reached hotel Savanne in Ségou and after a lunch, where Mohamed Doumbia from the Festival sur le Niger introduced us to the activities of the festival including the impact the more than 25000 visitors have had and have on the local area.
A short drive took us to Centre Culturel Kôré where we were welcomed and with great enthusiasm informed about the ideas and activities of the center, a building complex referring to traditional customs but raised in modern materials.
Centre Culturel Kôré
The center consists of three different parts – a museum displaying traditional instruments and through the adjoining texts and photo also connects to present artists. Through their program the center wants to educate and encourage young people to practice the music and the instruments, on the same time preserving the historical traditions and integrating them in the modern life.
The second part is a large space for exhibitions and for performances and the third part a professional sound studio. The center was supported by the Dutch Doen foundation and was raised from the ground in only 6 months.
Entrance of the museum of the Centre Culturel Kôré
What was particular interesting was that the center aimed to raise money to the running costs through work within so different fields as agriculture and cattle farming next to more natural fields as the engagement in the growing interests within sustainable producing and dyeing cotton – which is one of the most important crops in the Mali economy. And also that the model for doing this was to organize the work through modelling the ancient structures from the African family.
There is still much work to be done at the center. The building of the administrative center is still in progress and the activities seems to attract a rather small number of participants with the exception of the sound studio that enables groups from outside the community to come and produce their own music. Continue reading
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.
Malian taxi (foto by Chris Meplon)
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. Continue reading
Our third day in the capital of Mali. We leave the peaceful Missira neighbourhood where the roads are nicely paved at 9.30 a.m. and head for the Centre de la Bande Dessinée de Bamako (Centre of Comics). We’re welcomed there by a group of bright, enthousiastic and dynamic young people. They are Georges Foli, Massiré Tounkara, Assitan Sanogo, Hawa Sémega, Mamadou Diara, Julien Batandéo, Baléari Kané. Most of them are ‘Bédéístes’ (drawers), some are scenario writers. Their pioneering project started in 2002 with a few workshops and activities to promote comic drawing. Some of the participants were clearly noticable for their talent. Interestingly, they continued working together and they even went to France as a group. One year later the initiative turned into The Centre de la BD, a fixed meeting point and well organized place of work, creation and formation for aspiring professional comic drawers.
Group picture Centre de la Bande Dessinée de Bamako
In the early stage their work was mainly focused on commmunication with the people of Mali. Awareness-raisinig and educational vocation were central. In 2005 they organized ‘La journée de la bande déssinée médicale’.
But in order to achieve artistic recognition on the level they are aiming for it was important to move away from medical and educational themes, Increasingly they opted for work with more creative freedom. From 2007 onwards they organized ‘Le Salon de la Bande Déssiné’ every two years.
Centre de la Bande Dessinée de Bamako
When we ask them to describe the Malinese style, they hesitate. At this stage they prefer to develop a strong individual style. Unlike in neighbouring Ivory Coast, the comic scene is only just starting here. It’s too early to make generalisations about a national style.
Though everything is moving quite fastly in the good direction, one of the main problems they’re facing is the lack of specialized publishing houses in Mali. We look at samples of their varied work and enjoy that so much that we’re reluctant to leave. This was a fine encouter. We discoverd a strong and promising team, young optimstic people who know how to work together. That’s a real strenghth!
On the 3rd day (4 March) we visited the Centre de la Bande Dessinée in Bamako. Click here to watch a short YouTube video.
work of one of the drawers of Centre de la Bande Dessinée de Bamako
A short video impression of our second day in Bamako can be viewed on YoutTube. Click here.
After a beautiful first evening in the Bla Bla bar we started this morning with a visit to the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers Multimedia. This conservatoire (music academy) is situated in a complete new complex just outside Bamako. Although after 6 years the building needs some renovation. We met Abdoulaye Konate, the director of the institute and a painter with a huge reputation (participated Documenta 12 and Africa Remix exhibition). He told the group he is really interested in expanding international contacts to exchange ideas, and information and exchange on how to seek funding. During our site tour it became clear that equipment is not the problem. They have a lot of good working computers and great piano’s, guitars and a studio space. We were delighted to attend a concert of the students. It was a little bit surrealistic as we were confronted with the mainstream classic composers and later on a concert of the proffesors from Cuba with a strange mixture of classic-rumba-with an European opera-like concert. It felt a little bit akward in the middle of steamy Africa. Nevertheless Abdoulayae assured us that there is also a lot of attention for traditional music as well. Later that day, in the evening, we heard our first African cora music.
Our visit to the National Museum of Mali with Samuel Sidibe was very pleasant. Situated in the National Parc in a beautiful surrounding he showed us a presentation of works on loan from the museum Branly from Paris.
Today this museum has a collection of 6000 pieces made up essentially of objects of ethnographic and archeological interest and a new focus on contemporary arts. www.mnm-mali-org
A visit to the ateliers of Aida Duplessis made it absolutelly clear that a mixture of old traditional weaving can create experimental contemporary objects. Works can be seen at Maison et Objet in Paris. As we heard also later that day she’s is very proud of the products made in Mali despite the pressure of Chinese copy cats.
Cheick Diallo showed in his house some newly designed objects. As the founder of the association of African designers he is an influential man. www.diallo-desing.com
Back in the hotel we met Aminata Traore and her daughter. A fascinating talk about hope, courage and pride. As a former minister of culture and with an international network she returned to Mali to build up confidence for the next generation. Her daughter studied abroad but came back to do the same. With working projects and especially a festival for cotton. The dinner was great due to a number of interesting guests invited.