Odur Ronald, Centre Soleil d’Afrique — Mali
When we travel to other places, we tend to experience different things in various aspects. For the KLA ART Labs, I spent a month and two weeks in Mali on residency at Centre Soleil d’Afrique as aligned to my proposal put in place during one of the lab sessions about Research and Concept Development which mainly focused on critical thinking as an artist and how to translate my concept into art.
Metal being the major materials I use in my work as an artist, during my stay in Mali at Centre Soleil d’Afrique, I managed to experiment with fabric on metal as proposed to the rich fabric culture of Mali indigenous to the region such as the Bogolan which is a traditional handmade fabric indigenous to the Dogan people. With the vast challenges I faced during the residency like the language, due to Mali being a francophone country, I put up an installation articulating the notions of obstructions, censorship and resilience.
This was in three pieces of a wall hanging of a relief metal sculpture of a human character “a boy” that I described to be me on burnt fabric with characters of the ancient Malian ideograms, stitched wires on his face and a burnt body with bullet holes. Burnt beverage cans hanging on thin tiny copper wires creating a curtain of challenges on the artist’s pathway and finally a white piece of burnt canvas with some cans that couldn’t sustain the burns dropped on the canvas.
My installation delineates the challenges I experienced in Mali not forgetting the challenges back home in Uganda with one of the art forms encountering censorship as a result of politics. The installation exhibits the resilience through which an artist keeps standing despite all the different obstacles and challenges which manifest as curtains on the pathway of an artist.
All this was inspired by the Bamana Ntomo masks in the dogan culture in Mali that were worn by boys as they passed through the early cycle of initiation into manhood. The masks reinforce the lessons the boys are taught as they are prepared by elder males in the society for circumcision. This was done through stages visible on the Ntomo mask in form of horns to symbolize a human being’s levels of increased knowledge based on the initiation stages he should pass through to become a man whereby each boy makes his own mask. This made me think about all the stages, processes and challenges artists go through.