April 13, 2017

THE CLOTHS OF HEAVEN: Rediscover the traditional Malian fabric

ART AFRICA interviewed Malian visual artist Abdoulaye Konaté, a major figure on the contemporary art scene. Konaté rediscovers and appropriates textile in the creation of his works. He composes his artwork with strips of bazin, a traditional Malian fabric, end to end and superimposed that result in masterworks somewhere between painting, sculpture, and installation.

For the first time in Casablanca, Morocco, Galerie 38 presents a solo exhibition of new works by Abdoulaye Konaté, from the 16th of March until the 16th of April. He has entered a dialogue with traditional Moroccan textiles and the artisans of Fez, allowing him to create unique works.

An additional exhibition of his work is on show at CDG Foundation in Rabat from 28th of March - 30th April. This event takes part of the series of event "Afrique en Capitale" under the patronage of His Majesty Mohammed VI.


Your work primarily takes the form of textile-based installations which explore socio-political and environmental issues in your home country, Mali. Can you elaborate on your choice of materials in relation to the issues you deal with?

Textiles offer a means of artistic expression that I seek to explore fully, without any limitation. I address themes that involve Mali of course, but the essence of my work is not addressed specifically to Malians, nor Africans; it is intended for human beings of all kinds, whatever their geographical, social, or cultural environment.

You are originally a painter by training – why did you shift from painting to creating textile-based installations?

In the 1990s, I began to use textiles in the course of daily work and experimentation, and began to create installations. I should specify that I use textiles as if it were paint or any other artistic medium.

Your upcoming solo exhibition, ‘The Cloths of Heaven’, at Galerie 38 in Morocco seeks to enter into dialogue with traditional Moroccan textiles and the artisans of Fez. What are you hoping to achieve through this dialogue and how will your work reflect this?

I have already experienced this in Dakar with AISSA DIONNE, and in Sweden during a studio workshop that I led for a few days. Morocco is fortunate to have artisans of great talent in Fez to this day, so I could not pass on this collaboration. The opportunity to work with the artisans of Morocco was also a choice of Galerie 38, and I thank them very much.

What is it about textiles and fabric that you have made it the central medium in your artistic practice and how do you go about discovering and appropriating Moroccan and Malian fabric in the creation of your work?

I use textiles in my work as though it were paint, or a three-dimensional material. My choices are no different from yours when you select the fabric for your own suit. I leave the extent of appropriation or integration of the two fabrics to the spectators' judgement.

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