Kawral was a response to the crisis that erupted in Mali in 2012. This artist residency and resulting exhibition and catalogue are important because they serve as a model for the role that artistic production and culture can play in the life of a nation. Yet, projects such as this are rare.
KAWRAL united 25 professional visual artists from throughout Mali to work on the themes Reconciliation, Peace and Social Cohesion in Mopti in March, 2014. With their analysis and creativity the artists brought their contribution to Mali’s recovery, extending the influence of the artistic and cultural life of Mali through the creation of original works of art.
In 2014, Malian artists Kandioura Coulibaly, Kletigui Dembele, Sira Sissoko and American artist Janet Goldner selected 25 professional Malian artists after an open call. Participants came from all eight regions of Mali, diverse ethnicities and a wide range of ages to reflect on Mali’s recent past. Some were refugees or internally displaced due to the crisis.
For three weeks, the team of 29 artists shared their life experiences and artistic techniques. Paintings and sculpture took form as participants tried to make sense of the political and security crisis that Mali had just endured. Through dialogue and art making, the artists opened themselves to healing and communicated the need for change and reconciliation in their country. Contemporary and traditional sensitivities contributed to the search for solutions. The participants named the residency Kawral which means peace and harmony in the Peuhl language.
The Residency took place in the center of Mali, in Mopti, on the edge of the northern regions of the country, between the parts that were occupied by djahadists and the parts that remained in Malian government control. The idea of the Residency close to the regions that were occupied during the crisis heightened the theme Peace, Reconciliation and Social Cohesion to immortalize the event by leaving traces and strong images through artists’ analysis and perceptions.
Politicians have talked a lot about the crisis in Mali. The government, religious and community leaders as well as international and regional organizations have played an important role in finding solutions for peace. Ordinary Malians meanwhile, have not had much opportunity to comment on the crisis even though they have been the most affected. One of the artist’s jobs is to hold a mirror to their society. Musicians have produced songs; playwrights staged plays. All called for dialogue among communities, for peace and to reweave the social fabric.
Through this artistic Residency, which the participants named Kawral, visual artists brought their contribution to this call for peace and social cohesion in the Republic of Mali. The message is communicated by an exhibition of artworks created over a period of three weeks in Mopti, on the edge of the northern regions of the country, between the parts that were occupied by djahadists and the parts that remained in Malian government control.
The idea of the Residency close to the regions that were occupied during the crisis heightened the theme Peace, Reconciliation and Social Cohesion to immortalize the event by leaving traces and strong images through artists’ analysis and perceptions. Contemporary and traditional sensitivities contribute to the search for solutions, hence the name Kawral, which means peace and harmony in the Fulani language of Mopti.
After the residency, exhibitions were held in Mopti and in Bamako, Mali’s capital. The joy, harmony and respect amongst the group are evident in the artworks that are presented in the catalogue. The participants became a new artistic family. Their activities continue beyond the end of the project.
This residency was organized and directed by Kandioura Coulibaly, Kletigui Dembele, Janet Goldner and Sira Sissoko with financial support from USAID, Office of Transition Initiative (OTI).
The Catalog includes profiles of the 25 contemporary artists who participated in the residency and images of their paintings and sculptures. Essays by Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard, Minister of Culture N’Diaye Ramatoulaye Diallo, Director of the Alliance Franco-Malienne, Mopti Hamadoun Diarra and the Groupe Bogolan Kasobane with Janet Goldner introduce the project. The text is in both English and French.
Reviews of the exhibition:
Paix, reconciliation, cohesion sociale: Sous Le Pinceau Des Artistes Plasticiens; Essor: 25 Mars 2014
Les plasticiens apportent leur contribution Les Echos, 25 March, 2014
Reconciliation et cohesion sociale vue par les artistes Le Republican: 27 Mars, 2014