Abdoulaye Konaté: one of Africa’s finest artists

Art enthusiasts such as Tunde Folawiyo will be familiar with the work of African artist, Abdoulaye Konaté. Born in DIré, Mali in 1953, Konaté studied painting in Mali’s capital, Bamako, followed by seven years’ study in Havana, Cuba. He later combined his talent for painting with installation work, composing powerful commentaries on environmental and political affairs. Abdoulaye Konaté’s work is popular the world over with African art collectors such as Tunde Folawiyo (the Tunde Folawiyo information page provides further reading on this African philanthropist and businessman).

When canvas and paint were unavailable to him, Konaté began working with Malian cloth. The large scale of his pieces mean that not only does Konaté support his local economy by using textiles manufactured in Mali, but he continues a long West African tradition of using textiles to communicate and commemorate. Konaté’s work is a social commentary fusing current day politics with traditional craftsmanship. Though his work explores weighty topics affecting Africa today, the overriding message in his art work is one of hope.

This award winning artist has returned to Mali, and lives and works in his home city of Bamako once more. In 1993, Konaté was appointed Director of Bamako’s Palais de la Culture, and is now the Director of the Conservatoire for Arts and Media in Bamako.

Konaté has covered many grave topics in his work, including the effect of AIDS in Africa, both to individuals and society as a whole. 75,000,000 people in Africa have contracted the illness, and more than 1,000,000 children and adults die from AIDS/HIV every year. The virus has had a devastating effect on Africa’s population. As an African artist and social commentator, it is easy to understand why Konaté feels compelled to examine the subject.

Tunde FolawiyoAnother plight close to Konaté’s heart is the desertification of The Sahel in West Africa. The dry lands are inhabited by a staggering 25% of the world’s population who depend upon the area for their livelihood. The vegetated areas are rich in species such as gazelles and desert partridges. Where the area is rich in vegetation, little soil erosion occurs. However, where deforestation and decimation of the vegetation has occurred, soil is quickly eroded by desert winds, meaning that The Sahel is rapidly shrinking. With so many people reliant on the area for food, not to mention the catastrophic effect losing The Sahel would have on the ecosystem of Africa as a whole, it is easy to understand why Konaté is so passionate about saving it.

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