Les Arbres à Bleus (2007)
Aboubakar Fofana is a calligrapher, artist and textile designer. Born in Bamako, Mali, he lived in France for over thirty years but is now based back in Bamako. He draws on ancient African weaving and dyeing techniques to create a solidly contemporary body of work. Using organic fibres and natural dyes, he is committed to preserving and revitalizing Mali’s nearly lost tradition of natural indigo and vegetable dyeing. Profoundly concerned with maintaining Mali’s cultural heritage, in acquiring his skills he sought out the country’s remaining textile masters.
Time and the changing nature of matter are underlying, recurrent themes in Fofana’s artistic practice and, of course, vegetable and mud dyeing address this theme intrinsically as a medium. His work has been exhibited in Japan, France, America and Africa.
Symbolizing the link between Heaven and Earth, these trees/totems form a symbolic forest.
Les Arbres à Bleus is a metaphor, its materiality (cotton) and colour (Indigo) proclaiming that it is part of the vegetable world. The indigo plant produces an unimaginable range of blue shades, from palest sky to deepest midnight, the descriptions reflecting the practice of Soninké dyers of asking their customers for their preferred shades by looking at the sky. As in a landscape, no two trees are alike. The scarifications on some reflect their distinctive personalities and define their genetic code. They denote their allegiance to a group, a family or community, as much as the different shades of blue reveal their differences. Symbolizing the link between Heaven and Earth, these trees/totems form a symbolic forest. The ‘fruits’ scattered on the ground suggest the abundance and generosity of nature – a Garden of Eden on a path of discovery. The tree is the most important and sacred symbol in Bambara thought – a ladder of salvation, a divine route to knowledge.
Courtesy of the artist
Listen to Aboubakar Fofana discuss his work as part of a series of artist interviews on the COTTON: Global Threads blog.