Aboubakar Fofana

Aboubakar Fofana
Aboubakar Fofana, Obsessions 2012

Aboubakar Fofana was born and raised in Mali and went on to study and train in France and Japan. Whilst he remains strongly grounded in his Malian heritage, his artistic expression is a subtle alchemy of these three cultures which he calls his own. His work is a fusion of ancient African and Japanese weaving and dying techniques as well as calligraphy which results in a contemporary body of work which is both original and intrinsically universal. He has adapted traditional Malian mud-dying techniques to produce powerful abstract paintings on organic jute canvases; traditional strip-woven organic cotton, natural indigo and vegetable dyes are the source materials for his unique installations and sculptures.

One of the underlying and defining artistic concerns in his work revolves around his desire to maintain Mali’s cultural heritage and preserve and revitalize his country’s nearly lost tradition of natural Indigo and vegetable dying. He has relentlessly sought out the remaining old masters of weaving and dying, learning their skills. He has also planted organic cotton and indigo and has systematically encouraged local craftsmen to use natural dyes rather than chemical ones.

Obsessions, 2012 is a new work made especially for We Face Forward. Suspended from the ceiling in Manchester Art Gallery’s airy glass atrium, numerous transparent linen panels hang, gently moving in the air. From top to bottom automatic writing has been painted onto each panel in mud. The text is not recognisable or legible and therefore does not have the meaning of language. Instead Fofana is passionate about the inherent rhythm of writing and the obsessional quality of subconscious inscription. The artist rejects a common misconception that there was no writing tradition in Africa before Europeans arrived and suggests that African civilisations used writing for different purposes than how we use it today. Drawing parallels to music, Fofana evokes the poetry in the motion of writing and the resonance of its trace.


Martin Barlow, curator of the exhibition Moving Into Space at the National Football Museum talks about the exhibition.

Barthélémy Toguo, Lucy Azubuike and Nnenna Okore, three of the exhibited artists, talk about their work and their interest in using materials which reflect the lifestyle and experience of the people of West Africa.

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Creative Tourist


Nine countries show off their talent as five city venues link up for a summer celebration. Helen Nugent in the Guardian

Street life, dazzling dress, social commentary and a riot of sensuous colour interweave in a rich assembly of West African art, writes Charles Gore in the Times Higher Education