Meet Mali's Contemporary Artists

Come face to face with the artists and photographers defining Mali's contemporary cultural profile

Instruments for Africa

Abdoulaye Konate and artwork by Seydou CamaraInstruments for Africa

Abdoulaye Konaté

Abdoulaye Konaté was born in 1953 in Dire, Mali and currently lives and works in Bamako. He first studied painting at the Institut National des Arts in Bamako and then at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana, Cuba, where he lived for several years before returning to Mali.

He has created works of textile with various colours and figurative and abstract motifs, based on the African tradition and culture, which refer to political, social and environmental issues that he has been interested in. He has been renowned as one of the most important artists in the African contemporary art scene.

Abdoulaye Konate artworkInstruments for Africa

Konaté’s works look like wall tapestries, and are made from Malian cotton. They are created based on the West African tradition that textiles are means of communication. Through them, the artist reacts to problems and issues within and beyond Mali, such as war, immigration, abuse of power, terrorism and genocide, and dangerous infections like AIDS and the lack of awareness of them.

His influence on the new generation of Malian artists has been immense. More than anyone, he has inspired and mentored a movement in West Africa, and for a country that is known for its music, with the likes of Ali Farka Touré, Salif Keïta, and Oumou Sangaré, now it’s the visual art scene that will bring Mali to art’s world stage.

Opa Bathily and his artworkInstruments for Africa

Opa Bathily

Amadou Opa Bathily was born in Bamako and is a graduate of the National Institute of Arts and the Conservatory of Arts and Multimedia. He took his first steps towards the creation of art at a young age in a workshop of art recovery, where he began working with recycled metal to make sculpture.

Opa Bathily artwork1Instruments for Africa

Bathily's paintings continue to be identified by these hard materials which he sculpts to his canvas. For Opa, everything can be flexible and enduring at the same time, but like the artist, the material also accepts and refuses certain things. Bathily works in several mediums, namely: painting, sculpture, and art installation.

Souleymane GuindoInstruments for Africa

Souleymane Guindo

Born in 1986 in Bamako, Souleymane Guindo started creating works of art at a young age, but fully embraced his destined path in the world of visual arts by attending the Conservatory of Arts and Multimedia.

Painting by Souleymane GuindoInstruments for Africa

Souleymane’s semi-sculptural works on canvas, which are sometimes asymmetric in format and sometimes perforated, often draw inspiration from mountainous areas, stones, and boulders, which connect him to the rocky escarpments of Dogon country, the culturally rich area in central Mali where he has his familial and ethnic roots.

Seydou CamaraInstruments for Africa

... captured by Seydou Camara

Seydou Camara was born in 1983 in the town of Ségou, home to Mali’s last great kingdom. Since his childhood, he has nurtured a passion for creating images. After obtaining his license in Private Law from the University of Bamako, he preferred to enroll in the Center for Training in Photography (CFP) in Bamako and fulfill his destiny. 

Seydou Camara photographyInstruments for Africa

Since then, Camara has become one of Mali’s most decorated young photographers. Heralded for his technical mastery of the camera, he is a purist who refuses to treat his photos with applications like photoshop, relying only on his knowledge of light and his machine.  Camara is generous with and has dedicated his life to training others in the art of photography through his association Yamarou Photo

Ange DakouoInstruments for Africa

Ange Dakouo

Born in 1990 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Losso Marie-Ange Dakouo lives and works in Bamako. A student of Abdoulaye Konaté, Ange admires the mastery of balance, the accuracy of nuances and the play of colors of his mentor. Much of Ange’s current work is inspired by the protective amulets, gris gris, that are attached to a child’s wrist or neck at birth or are sewn into the outfits of traditional hunters in West Africa. 

The son of a newspaper printer, naturally, he uses this medium of folded pieces of the daily journal to create his woven gris gris, which traditionally are inscribed with Islamic scripture and used to ward off evil djinn, bad luck, and even ammunition rounds of enemy fire. His works are representations of human life, a harmonious universe of woven links showing the interconnectedness between all of us. 

Dramane TolobaInstruments for Africa

Dramane Toloba

Born in 1992 in Bamako, Mali, Dramane Toloba defines himself as an African contemporary artist. He is an alumnus of the Conservatory of Arts and Multimedia, and a disciple of Abdoulaye Konaté. Dramane also has a degree in Economics and Management. Like many young Malian artists, he completed studies in other disciplines before focusing on art. 

Dramane Toloba artworksInstruments for Africa

His work is eco-responsible and based on the recovery of trash disposed by people into nature. His creations are inspired by the wastefulness of consumer society, contrasted with the natural world of traditional rural society, gratitude, and the constant battle of scarcity. His favorite material is fabric, accompanied with paper maché and other discarded articles such as soda cans and wrappers. 

Ange Dakouo artworkInstruments for Africa

... all captured by Aboubacar Traoré

Aboubacar was born in 1982, and comes from Kadiolo, Sikasso, the southernmost region of Mali which shares a border with Ivory Coast. 

Although he had a happy childhood, he grew up among scarcity and had to fight to have the minimum. It was in this context that he discovered his passion for photography, when he traveled once a year to the annual Tabaski party, a Muslim religious celebration, just to have his annual portrait taken. 

Dramane Toloba artworkInstruments for Africa

Today, Aboubacar uses photography as a means of expression to denounce social inequalities and as a means of creation and to portray struggle. He is motivated by the desire to tell the story of social life in his country, working on themes such as street vendors, urban transport, traditional fishing, artesian gold mining, and religious obscurantism.

Mohamed DembeleInstruments for Africa

Mohamed Dembélé

Mohamed Dembélé was born in 1990 in Bamako. He attended the Conservatory of Arts and Multimedia. Dembélé believes artists are the eyes, ears, and mouth of a healthy, functioning society, and that artists must be able to fully play their role to maintain a just and balanced world. 

Mohamed DembeleInstruments for Africa

Dembélé fashions his own brushes to have the right shape to control his strokes. His work is done mainly with acrylic paint on canvas using a multitude of lines, creating a feeling of continuous motion. His works focus on everyday life, current affairs, and social events, including ones that may seem dull or gloomy, as well as more anecdotal and shocking scenes. 

... captured by King Massassy

Born in 1971 in Ivory Coast under the name Lassina Coulibaly, King Massassy owes his nickname to his Bambara origins and his deep attachment to the safeguarding of the habits and customs of the descendants of the ancient kingdom of Kaarta.

Self-taught, with a melting pot talent derived from a mix of his culture of origin and his multi-cultural mix, King Massassy surfs on three waves namely music, comedy and photography. 

DiabagateInstruments for Africa

Mohamed Diabagaté, captured by Mohamed Diawara

Mohamed Dayfour Diawara was born in 1985 in Bamako where he currently lives. An alumnus of the Conservatory, he is a photographer, videographer and film director specializing in cultural documentaries.

Despite all the problems that currently plague Mali, Diawara wants to show the aspects that make his country beautiful and unique, and document the unparalleled authenticity of a place that does not cease to fascinate him.

Artists in the SoulInstruments for Africa

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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