Abdoulaye Konaté

Abdoulaye Konaté: Mistral – Technology, Money and Politics, 2015
Courtesy Blain Southern, London/Berlin

Mistral – Technology, Money and Politics, 2015

The man is a painter. But he paints with the medium of textiles. This shift has reasons related both to the artist’s biography and to Mali’s political fate.

Non-Western artists of Konaté’s generation (he was born in 1953) often received their education in the style of Western art schools. Modernism, with its media of painting, sculpture and drawing, set the pattern that defined art – at least for the centres of the time such as New York, London and Paris. Anything that did not follow this model could not be art. The young Konaté was faced with the choice of either working in the idiom of the West or the risk being dubbed a folkloric artisan. Konaté decided to use textiles, choosing an artistic language whose scope and expressiveness are local and legible in Mali and on the West African coast. This decision corresponded with the independence of the African continent. In addition to his art, Konaté became an important teacher and a driving force in the programming at the Conservatoire, the art school in Mali’s capital, Bamako.

The textile picture in the rotunda, featuring the word ‘mistral’ in the title, does not refer to the French northwesterly wind, but to a type of military helicopter carrier. The Russian army ordered two of these ships from France for 1.2 billion euros, and the deal received President Sarkozy’s support. The two ships were due to be handed over in 2014. However, following the war in Ukraine and the Russian annexation of Crimea, France’s western allies intervened. Sarkozy’s successor, President Hollande, opted for an elegant exit from the contract by reimbursing Russia for the costs, but selling the two helicopter carriers to Egypt in 2016.