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Artist Amadou Sanogo plans Bamako arts centre to mentor young talent

Expected to open in 2022, Makoro will house studios for Malian artists under 30, workshops for school children and exhibitions

The Malian artist Amadou Sanogo © Titouan Lamazou

The Malian painter Amadou Sanogo is planning to build a new arts centre in Bamako, the country’s capital, that will host artists in residence, workshops for children and an exhibition space when it opens in 2022.

Sanogo, who is represented by the gallery Magnin-A in Paris and is based in Bamako, hopes the 590 sq. m venue will stimulate creativity in Mali, one of the world’s poorest nations, where cultural infrastructure remains limited.

My first ambition is to develop a spirit of tolerance to reconcile society, mainly among children, who are the key to Mali’s future, and that the workshops will awaken their consciousness,” says Sanogo, who began organising creative workshops for children ten years ago and for artists in 2014.

“I would like young artists to be better respected and be able to live from their profession, thereby improving their quality of life, with particular attention being paid to women [artists],” he says.

Sanogo has purchased two adjacent plots of land in the city’s Koulouba district and hired the local architecture agency Edificare to design the centre, known as Makoro. It will house five studios spanning 250 sq. m for Malian artists aged 18-30 to undertake residencies of two or three months, workshops for up to 35 children aged 7-16 (a bus will transport them to and from their schools) and a 100 sq. m exhibition space.

Sanago hopes to involve international professionals such as the curator Simon Njami, the former artistic director of the Bamako Encounters photography biennial, and the Senagalese artist Omar Ba as mentors to the young artists, who will pay €180 a month to rent their residency space. Makoro—the name meaning “a tribute to mothers”—will seek to generate income through a restaurant and guesthouses for tourists.

The project, which is estimated to cost €569,000, is being largely financed by the foundation of French oil company Total, its Malian subsidiary and other local partners. Sanogo is looking for investors to fund the remaining 25% and is discussing possible support from the Malian government. “The culture and education ministers are very enthusiastic about the project,” he says.

The launch of the centre’s construction phase took place in March in the presence of Mali's culture minister and the French ambassador to Mali. However, development is currently on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “I'm sure that, after this crisis, our need for places to express creativity and get together will be even greater,” Sanogo says.