Tag Archives: textile

Day 9 – Aissa Dione, textile designer

Our next appointment is with Aissa Dione at her textile factory. The search for her place takes our bus to an hour of wandering through the streets of Rufusque, once a town of its own, now a suburb of the expanding Dakar. The ride shows us Senegal that is much less painted by its colonial past than Dakar, and much more mad and hectic in the autonomous world of its own. In a way, it reminds us of Bamako with its disorganised architectural and social shapes, but still with the aggressive Senegalese dynamism of the street that is right the opposite of the serene atmosphere of the Malian capital.

Aissa Dione

When we get to the factory, the location suddenly makes sense – it would obviously be very difficult to have that amount of space in Dakar. The factory is very large, it appears that it could have around 3000 m2, with the looms positioned all around the hall, most of which, surprisingly, without an operator in that particular moment. The building is massive and very impressive, and Aissa tells us that it once used to be a French military barracks, then a peanuts storage, then a Lebanese ice-cream factory, and now she has been extensively investing in its renovation for the last 2 years.

We met Aissa the night before, during the introduction dinner at Le Kadjinol. From the first encounter it was obvious that she was a professional, competent and firm, very much experienced in international communication. Beside the plan to visit her the day after, Aissa kindly, but authoritatively, suggests interventions in our programme, advising whom should we meet from the Senegalese art scene, that she has been part of as a painter and gallerist for 15 years.

So only a day later we are at her space and she guides us through it, interrupting the history of her work with occasional explanations of the origin and purposes of certain machines.  Continue reading


Day 7 – La Manège, Ker Thiossane and Les Ateliers Leydi

Abou is the first Senegalese artist I meet. He starts to talk to me as soon as I step outside the hotel compound. I try to hold off like he is one of the many vendors swarming around but he insists and a conversation develops. Crossing the city on foot and back, we discuss the quality of the Dakar Biennal, what he perceived as a lack of local art and artists in the 3rd Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres; the importance of international connections, his current project called ‘What future for Africa?’ (Abou plans to travel to Libya and Cote d’Ivoire to photograph the revolution, Inshallah) and the trouble with government subsidies. Of course he will be at the opening at La Manège later tonight.

Metropole meets countryside in the Medina district

The impressive presentations by Koyo Kouoh and Jean-Charles Tall yesterday evening gave us a taste of the arts climate and the cultural situation in Dakar. Here it is ‘different’ from Mali, it seems. The program of today will put this impression to the test.

Morning brought us to Le Manège, just around the corner of our hotel in the Plateau district. Le Manège is the gallery space of the Institut Français. Director Delphine Calmettes is unable to meet us but luckily Christine Eyene took time to meet us and answer our questions. She is the curator of Kaddou Diggen (Women speak out) a group show with work by 8 female artists living and working in Africa or in the diaspora. Amidst the activities of a typically day-before-the-opening situation, Christine informed us on some of the exhibited pieces and of the theme of the exhibition, which is female identity in the arts as constructed by women.
Christine Eyene is a curator who studied in Paris and currently lives and works in London (parallel to “Kaddou Diggen” she is preparing an exhibition in the Southbank Centre). She considers herself part of a new generation of cultural professionals that emphasizes collaboration and exchange, and aims at breaking with the current notion of ‘African Arts’. One of her objectives is to bring African artists to the western world.

A slightly confused and (thus) interesting discussion occurred upon two questions. Jogi memorised that historically there used to be no difference between arts and artisanship; in the western world the two have become separated. How about Africa? Does she think this notion is relevant to the conceptual perspective and practice of her curatorial work? No!! Christine is engaged with the visual arts and its history.
Amila offered another angle: does the art from Africa imply new visions on the dominant linear pattern in which art historically emerged from visual culture and developed into a new discipline, detached from religion or crafts e.g.? In response Christine referred to an essay Okwui Enwezor wrote in Authentic/Ex-Centric: Conceptualism in Contemporary African Art (2001).

This visit brought about that there might be different paradigms at work in Mali and here in Dakar. Whereas in Mali the visual arts generally seem to be embedded in cultural and social practices, the scene in Dakar is clearly positioning itself within a western paradigm that supplies us with the language, codes and statements that are connected with ‘classical’ history of arts, even by adjusting or adding to it.

After Le Manège the bus delivered us in one of the so-called SICAP settlements, their streets lined with late modernist and comfortable urban villas built by the SICAP real estate company that has been active in Dakar since the 1950’s

Kër Thiossiane is a space for “multimedia and citizenship” and we met with coordinator Marion Legrand in a sunny but windy courtyard. She introduced us to various projects they have initiated since the start of the initiative in 2002 and toured us around their modest but spacious building. Activities are locally situated and often developed in collaboration with international partners. Ker Thiossane runs also an interdisciplinary and international residency program which draws in artists and musicians for productions, research or collaborations.

View from the roof

Meeting Marion Legrand

Their scope is interdisciplinary and ranges from dance to music to video art. With the lack of a new media department at the Dakar academy of art, this space seems to fill a gap and continues to contribute to the practice of and reflection on approaches to new technologies that are specific for the African continent. Marion stressed the importance of collaboration between institutions and cultural centers, which in Dakar cannot happen without effort.
With the help of a subsidy from the EU fund ACP Cultures, Ker Thiossane currently develops a two year project Rose de Vent Numerique (‘Digital Compass Rose’). Pairing medialabs in Mali, South Africa, Martinique, France and Finland, knowledge about electronic culture is being exchanged between continents. It has amongst others resulted in a first edition of the excellent Afropixel festival in Bamako and Dakar. Continue reading

Day 5 – Ségou, Ndomo, Niger and Kalabougou

Turning away from the common ways of the Orientation Trip, today’s programme turned out to be absolutely fascinating and inspiring for the entire group. Unlike previous days, which were based on exchange with Malian cultural workers and artists, today was all about learning and receiving.

Boubalar Doumbia guided us trough the entire creation process

We started with the visit to the educational complex Ndomo. The centre was created in 1988 and has been developing since, as a traditional enterprise devoted to natural textile dyeing techniques in Mali. It was envisaged as a social initiative created to address the unemployment problem of the young Malian people who have not had the opportunity to go to school, so Ndomo assists them in life by training with local knowledge. It also tries to experiment with a new form of business by changing the traditional system of employer and employee and functioning more as an African family in which all the members act individually and collectively. This concept of Ndomo will be extended to other fields, such as agriculture, and more information about this can be found on their website www.ndomo.net.

The name of the programme Ndomo is actually a Bambara word for “fishing for knowledge” (“la peche du savoir”) and it is symbolised by a masque, which is traditionally inherited through the generations of the centre. The masque has five horns representing five fingers of a hand but also masculine and feminine sex. Continue reading

Day 3 – Abdoulaye Konaté, Bla Bla Bar & Le Diplomat

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)

Abdoulaye Konaté
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.

Abdoulaye Konaté

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