U.S. & MALI

                                                                                        Sustaining Art & Craft


As we continue to celebrate our cross-cultural exchanges through art and education, we also recognize there are opportunities to help support and sustain the cultures, secret societies and arts of Mali, West Africa. For generations, the arts and cultures in Mali have withstood changes in empires, colonization, drought, famine, and political instability. Globalization has caused increased migration of workers. Degradation of the environment has created forced movement of people, and the search for formal education has obliged families to send their children into the cities. These erosions to family in the 21st century hold challenges to the cultures, secret societies and arts of Mali.


Through conversations with craftsmen and art communities in Mali, we have collaboratively created projects that support artists and artforms, and their evolution—ensuring artisan communities and families that we honor and value their traditional contributions to our modern society. We invite you to join us in supporting these important projects. 


Artforms of Mali have been handed down through family lines for centuries. The male blacksmiths and their counterpart female potters, create the perfect complement of artforms derived from fire. They preserve their knowledge by passing it to sons and daughters, nieces and nephews.


The family lines of Djeliw oral historians are well versed not only in ethnic history, but in poetry and music, becoming accomplished kora, balafon, and n’goni players to accompany their praise songs. These artforms are handed down from grandparents, mothers and fathers to the next generations.


Some handicrafts are specific to gender and to ethnic groups. Grandmothers teach their granddaughters to spin cotton into thread, then deliver it to male weavers. Mudcloth was traditionally the domain of Bamana women, handing down their personal stories to daughters and nieces and dedicating special events through symbols and images on cloth. Leather making was the domain of the Bamana’s Garanke and Tuareg caravaneers.


Although the domain of artforms and their practices have gone through natural evolutions and have begun to break gender, class and family lines in modern society, many artforms are dying out due to the breakup of the family. To this end, Ko-Falen Cultural Center seeks to support endangered artforms by supporting the family structure. Please read about and support our educational campaigns in Mali.