Abdoulaye Konaté

Abdoulaye Konaté
Abdoulaye Konate Power+Relgion, photo by Kate Elliott

When paint and canvas were unavailable to him, Abdoulaye Konaté began using materials native to Mali, namely raw or dyed woven Malian cloth. The large scale textiles of sewn and applied fabric which he creates not only support the local economy but also reference the West African tradition of using textiles to commemorate and communicate. Combining the aesthetics of the local with global subject matter including dictatorships, AIDS, deforestation and the inequalities between north and south, Konaté has created a unique vision in which he merges political commentary and traditional craftsmanship. His response is never one of despair, but of hope, exploring the human condition through thoughtful and critical expression.

Power and Religion (Pouvoir et Religion) 2011 is a 7m long textile work which explores the position of Christianity and Islam within political and cultural life. The symbols of religion and government stand out graphically against the grey background which is covered with white spots. The pieces of this fabric recall the plumage of the guinea fowl, a bird imbued with mythical symbolism in sub-Saharan Africa, where it appears in stories, theatre and literature. Malian writer Massa Makan Diabaté, in his book The Hairdresser of Kouta, describes how ‘the guinea fowl spreads out its colours over its plumage and man keeps them in his heart’.1 Konaté draws a parallel to the ambiguity that heads of government take towards religion.

1 Iniva Press Release, 16 Nov 2011, available at abdoulaye_konate [accessed 17 May 2012].



Born in 1953 in DIré, Mali. Lives and works in Bamako, Mali.

Studied painting in Bamako and then in Havana, Cuba for seven years.

Major group shows include Documenta XII in 2007 and Africa Remix international tour including Hayward Gallery, London, UK, 2004-7.

In 2008 Konaté was nominated for the Artes Mundi prize, Cardiff, UK.

Konaté has received several awards, including in 2002 the Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mali and Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de France.

He is Director of the Conservatoire for Arts and Media in Bamako, Mali.

Work in the show

Power and Religion 2011
Photograph courtesy of INIva


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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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