ART AFRICA, issue 08.
Portrait of Abdoulaye Konaté. Photo: © Sébastien Rieussec. Image courtesy of artist & photographer.
In the exhibition ‘The Cloths of Heaven’, held at La Galerie 38 in Casablanca and at the CDG foundation in Rabat, Malian artist Abdoulaye Konaté has entered a dialogue with traditional Moroccan textiles and the artisans of Fez, allowing him to create unique works. As the artist pointed out in an interview with ART AFRICA magazine, “Morocco is fortunate to have artisans of great talent in Fez 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.”
Konaté’s meeting with the last Master of the traditional brocade of Fez, El Haj Abdelkader Ouazzani, marks this artistic exchange between two countries sharing one great heritage. This encounter also perpetuates a long history of mobility in the Islamic world in Africa, where from the 8th century the people, artisans and traders never stopped travelling, from West Africa to the Swahili coast and through the Indian Ocean. They carried with them goods like textiles as well as their skills, techniques and styles. It is through this circulation of forms and ideas that great tradition and regional specialisations emerged. Mali specialised in embroidery and textiles with bazin, a traditional Malian cotton textile hand-dyed by women that is still renowned locally and internationally today – especially in Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal and Mauritania. Morocco specialized in every kind of crafts and Fez became a capital city for all artisans.
Abdoulaye Konaté, Composition for Haj Abdelkader Ouazzani – Fès n°3, 2016. Textile, 190 x 216 cm. © Sebastien Rieussec.
In his Compositions for Fez on show at the exhibition ‘The Cloths of Heaven,’ Abdoulaye Konaté used both bazin and traditional Fassi brocade and embroidery from Fez, named after the ancient Fassi family that has lived in the city from the 8th century. Konaté’s Compositions are purely aesthetic: he questions the relation between colours, associating Western modernism and African symbolism. This work can also be affiliated to ‘aniconism’ in the Muslim world, with the use of abstract design and the avoidance of any representational images. However abstraction is only one direction that drives Konaté’s work. The second one is very engaged and aims at criticizing current social and political issues, like his work No to the Sharia in Timbuktu exhibited at the Arab World Institute for the exhibition ‘Treasures of Islam in Africa.’
A painter by training, Abdoulaye Konaté says that “he uses textiles as though it were paint.” But his work is more physically present than a painting. By putting end to end and superimposing strips of bazin, he creates colorful visual and optical effects that result in masterworks somewhere between painting, sculpture, and installation.
‘The Cloths of Heaven,’ was on show at La Galerie 38, Casablanca, from the 16th March until the 16th April 2017.
A Second part of the exhibition was held at CDG Foundation, Rabat, from the 28th March until the 30th April, as part of the event ‘L’Afrique en Capitale’ and under the patronage of His Majesty the King, Mohammed VI.
Both exhibitions were curated by Armelle Dakouo.
Mathilde Lepert is a staff writer at ART AFRICA magazine.