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Mali - Makôro: a new springboard for young artists in Mali

Cultural dialogue and heritage – Committed to promoting cultural dialogue

At the end of 2021, artist-painter Amadou Sanogo will open an art-in residence and exhibition space supported by Total Foundation and Total Mali. The center - unique in Mali - will support young artists and raise awareness of art among children and teenagers in Bamako.

On Tuesday March 3, 2020, a large crowd gathered at the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers Multimédia in Mali’s capital to celebrate the start of construction on the Makôro cultural center. This project to support young artists is set to provide a facility unlike any other in the country. Spearheaded by internationally renowned Malian painter Amadou Sanogo, a celebrated talent in the world of African abstract art, this initiative will provide something that new graduates of the Institut National des Arts (INA) and the Conservatoire Balla Fasseké Kouyaté in Bamako sorely need: creative space and somewhere to meet with recognized professionals so they can gain recognition and publicize their works.

imgp2429.jpgA space designed by artists, for artists

For Amadou Sanogo, the center is the result of his personal struggle to give the country’s young artists alternatives to teaching drawing or having to change for another career. They also need to be given the resources to develop their own visual expression, break free from the influence of academia and conventional frameworks and move away from preconceived notions toward new horizons. “When I finished my studies at INA in 2003, there was nowhere for me to continue experimenting and developing my own art language,” he explains. “I was lucky though, because I met some international artists and art critics like Pascale Marthine Tayou and Simon Djami, and I was able to join their workshops and get advice from them while they were in Mali. I realized that young artists really needed a center run by more seasoned artists who would understand them and help them spread their wings whilst respecting their creative freedom and preparing them for the international market. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now.”

The Badalian collective, the precursor to Makôro

In 2014, this idea led Sanogo to create and fund Atelier Badalian in a disadvantaged area of Bamako. As a humanist and free thinker, he brought in young artists who showed promise but lacked financial resources, giving them the opportunity to work together in a spirit of freedom, providing them with the supplies they needed so they could focus all their energy on creating art. Some quickly entered the international circuit – Klèmèguè, for example, has had their entire body of work exhibited at Paris gallery Magnin-A. In June 2019, with support from Total Mali, the artists’ collective unveiled the “Total Art” exhibition series at five service stations in Bamako. The event was very popular with the general public. Sanogo’s vision has now taken on another dimension with the Makôro cultural center. This permanent space will make it possible to assist many more young artists over time, with residencies of at least three months as well as workshops and exhibition space. The young residents will be coached by volunteers, all experienced artists themselves. “We will also invite international gallery owners and curators to follow their development and interact with them to help them develop their techniques and create a more solid connection between school and the art world,” explains Sanogo.

We want to promote openness, free thinking and self-expression for young people [...] which will ultimately help to ensure sustainable development in our country.  

Amadou Sanogo

An independent center for culture and free self-expression

The center will not only help raise awareness of the arts but will also be a place for these artists to pass on knowledge and art techniques to children and teens in Bamako. Young people will be able to join in workshops designed to introduce them to the visual arts along with storytelling sessions, theater and music. These will promote not only learning and cultural dialogue but also awareness of the importance of tolerance and curiosity in a country that has no public cultural offering and often experiences a heightened security threat. “We want to promote openness, free thinking and self- expression for young people as they learn and embark upon their human journey, which will ultimately help to ensure sustainable development in our country,” explains Sanogo. In a country where financing for culture is rare, the Makôro Center will be built in a district highly frequented by tourists with the aim of achieving financial independence. “I didn’t want it to be a center that would survive off grants, my vision was for it to finance its own projects,” says Sanogo. Its financial model is based on five guest rooms, a 20-seat restaurant, and fee-based seminars and events whose profits will cover fixed fees for the workshops while also creating jobs.


An innovative project supported by Total Foundation

Total decided to join the artist in this innovative project to help encourage the arts and promote the spread of culture in Mali in the long term. Total Foundation has provided cultural engineering support to enable the artist to draw up an exhaustive development plan whilst searching for other sponsors. It has also contributed to the funds necessary for the construction and outfitting of the center, as well as its first year of operation. With its local presence and knowledge of the context, Total Mali will be involved in monitoring the project. “Total’s confidence and involvement were key factors in other national partners’ decisions to invest in the project, for both the construction and the operation of the center,” explains Amadou Sanogo. “Makôro will not merely support creative young talents in Mali and help them take control of their own destiny. The center will also raise cultural awareness and foster a sense of freedom, influencing the way many Malians view the visual arts, changing mindsets and helping to strengthen the country’s cultural reach.

The center will also raise cultural awareness and foster a sense of freedom […] changing mindsets and helping to strengthen the country’s cultural reach.

Amadou Sanogo
The Makôro Center, whose name means “a homage to mothers”, will be built in the Sogonafing district in the north of Bamako. Comprising five guestrooms-workshops for young resident artists and an exhibition space that will host art workshops for over 2,000 children and teens per year, the center will open its doors at the end of 2021. It will also offer spaces that local business-owners can rent, together with a guest hous and restaurant in an adjoining building.



  • A space measuring 1,000 sq. m
  • The creation of 15 direct permanent jobs
  • An estimated total cost of €535,000