IS ABDOULAYE KONATÉ UPDATING THE HUNTING TUNIC?
By Damali and Nii B. Andrews.
When Abdoulaye Konaté returned to his native Mali from Cuba in 1985, he stopped easel painting and started experimenting with textile wall hangings which he called “wall sculptures”.
These new works of his were influenced by the ritual importance of textiles in Malian traditional culture.
He had acquired a profound understanding of their importance on account of the 20 years he spent working with the National Museum of Mali.
While also drawing on the surreal work of Wilfred Lam that he had encountered in Cuba, Konaté fabricated enigmatic large wall sculptures utilizing a variety of cotton based fabrics.
The hangings reference the pivotal importance of cloth in Malian culture with thematic pointers to globalization, migration and waste.
The sum total is a riff on the artist’s sociopolitical and environmental perspective.
Perhaps it is not even a stretch to see these wall sculptures as an update on the traditional smocks embellished with charms and amulets that protected the hunters and blacksmiths – some were worn by African soldiers under their uniforms during the world wars.
Konaté has stated emphatically, “I use this knowledge (of my culture) to develop the artistic and aesthetic elements of my work”.
He had began by studying painting in Bamako at the Institut National des Arts from 1972 to 1976 and then after graduation moving to Havana in 1978 to study at the Instituo Superior des Arts.
Currently Konaté is enjoying immense popularity on the international art circuit.