an investigative photo documentary

Exclusive 22-page photo essay from our investigative journalist team in collaboration with award-winning photojournalist Amadou Keita. Location: Bamako, Mali Copyright Wondereur 2018.

MEET with artist Bakary Diallo curated by influential New York-based arts innovator Nathalie Anglès.

Diallo cover
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WHAT WAS THERE BEFORE WESTERNIZED SCHOOLS WERE BROUGHT INTO OUR CULTURE?
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You learned from your parents and elders, through rituals and traditions. It would show you how to behave and the way to do things right. Bakary used to say that he learned everything from his mom. As a child, he would stand beside her and just watch her perform daily activities, paying attention to every detail and learning from that.
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He was fascinated by the meaning of what we do in the course of our everyday lives: every small action and gesture, things that we do without thinking. That’s what he would pay attention to.
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Books have been written by historians and poets about traditional cultures of Mali, but Bakary wanted to capture this culture visually, creating a sensory experience.
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AS A FILMMAKER, HE WANTED TO BRING THE CULTURE OF MALI TO THE REST OF THE WORLD.
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Bakary and I first met in high school, but we became friends at the Arts and Multimedia Conservatory through his wife Mariam who is also an artist and encouraged Bakary to apply.
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He studied multimedia and I was in visual arts, but we both had a passion for film and would spend most of our days hanging out in the editing room. Then an international art school, Le Fresnoy, organized a workshop in Bamako, and we decided to participate. The best student in the workshop would get a two-year scholarship. Bakary won the first prize and I was ranked second. In the end, they decided to fund two scholarships instead of one, and we both went to France.
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We had complementary skills, so we ended up helping each other on our projects. Bakary would help me write my proposals, and I would draw storyboards for his films.
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He was always very specific on what he wanted to see in each frame. He had this great instinct on how the image should be structured and would position objects carefully to build a scene. One thing he would always insist on was the height of the camera. He usually wanted the focal point to be close to the ground, almost as to create the feeling that you were sitting on the floor.
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HE WAS A FILMMAKER WITH THE EYE OF A PHOTOGRAPHER.
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We were working on a project to bring the tech team from Le Fresnoy to small villages here. Accessing technology is so much harder outside Bamako – we wanted to help people develop their own visual language.
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I DREAM OF BAKARY ALL THE TIME.
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It’s almost a year since he’s been gone. His mom still can’t believe he’s not coming back.
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Bakary’s film Tomo was made before the height of the war in Mali.
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MANY PEOPLE SAW HIS FILM AS A PREMONITION OF THE DISASTER TO COME.
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Bakary was very concerned about the political situation in Mali. He was always reading the news, sometimes spending entire nights browsing the Internet for information.
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He was coming back from a writing residency in Burkina Faso when the plane crash happened.
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For some reason, on that specific trip, he had taken all his work with him. We still wonder why.
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HIS NOTEBOOKS AND PROJECTS… EVERYTHING IS GONE NOW.