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Yaya Coulibaly, is recognized worldwide as the Guardian of the tradition of Bamanan puppets, the oldest and richest in Africa.
Initiated to mystical knowledge at an early age, a direct descendant of the king of Ségou, he inherited from his father the mastery of puppet theater which occupies a first-rate place in the initiation rites of secret societies, as well as a collection of over 25,000 puppets, some of which date back to the 11th century, currently housed in his home theater in Bamako.
In 1980, he founded the Sogolon Troupe to promote the creation of the Bamanan, Somono and Bozo puppet theater.
In this interview Maître Yaya offers us an extraordinary all-round testimony of the profound spiritual, symbolic, concrete bonds that exist between the puppet and the water element in Malian culture.
Facinet Cheikhou Coulibaly, son of Yaya, General Manager of the Troupe Sogolon, Cultural Entrepreneur, Jurist, Puppeteer engaged in the life of the Company, which he oversees its development through projects of wide international scope, is the heir, together with his brothers and sisters, of the immense family tradition.
In this interview he describes the numerous current and future development projects of the Sogolon Company.
Maître Yaya, in trying to trace the water in your history, the first traces, the first drops that we have discovered, go far back in time.
You are a direct descendant of the king of Ségou Mamary Biton Coulibaly.
Your ancestor is directly related to the water deity Faaro.
According to legend, Mamary Biton Coulibaly, catching Faaro's daughter who stole eggplants in her field, let her live.
To reward him, Faaro puts a drop of her milk in his ears, thus allowing him to hear all the conspiracies against him.
WHO IS THE FAARO DIVINITY?
WHAT IS ITS IMPORTANCE IN BAMANAN CULTURE?
In the Bamanan cosmogony, mythology predicts the cataclysm of the creation of the world, the universe, with water.
Water is inhabited by spirits, it is inhabited by geniuses, in this case by Faaro, the goddess of water.
When there was some kind of flood with a tornado, this whirlwind blew up the egg and at that moment fire and water came out.
In this mythology of Faaro, the stagnation of the fertilizing water is extremely important, because the human being started from the water and will return to the water.
This symbolizes the fact that the divine mother, Faaro, was able to give birth to the first elderly woman called Temba and it was this Temba who gave birth to the first child on earth.
In mid-April there is heat here and this allows the goddess to meet the Council of Elders on a black rock somewhere in the river.
The Niger River is considered to be the umbilical cord and soul of the Bamanan people.
In the Koulikoro region, there is a village called Souban.
There is a black rock on which Faaro can appear, like a human being.
This encounter allows for the sacrifice of the goat.
My last show, which I am preparing, is a ritual show: The sacrifice of the goat.
It consists of selecting two or three elderly people, the oldest woman in the village, the one who has been in menopause for at least twenty years, a girl who has never met a man and a little bilakoro , that is, a boy.
Then we prepare a pumpkin, in which we put the millet broth with the kola nuts, chicken and goat meat.
The pumpkin is placed on the water, the man in charge of the ceremony recites verses and asks Faaro, for example, that there is a better connection between earth and sky and heaven and earth.
At this point there is a kind of vortex that makes the pumpkin plunge into the water, and after a few minutes it reappears.
If the year is abundant there is a species of fish that is very appreciated to us, the captain.
Then the pumpkin is filled with couscous, this is extremely important: at this point a circle is formed, which represents the placenta of the cosmic universe.
Placing your hand on your plate and eating it is a kind of sexualization.
This sexualization means that the first saliva comes out of the human body.
We turn around and each of us, from behind our backs, dips our hand into the pumpkin and we eat.
This can cause fertilization in unison, it is extremely important.
We bless the water and we hope that there are maximum guarantees, that there is maximum safety, that we can be protected not only from climatic dangers, such as floods, but also from sudden stop of rain, or that women do not suddenly reach sterility.
Because the woman is considered as water, water as a spring, water as life, water as spirit.
Faaro, who is the intermediary between us and the sky, is considered as the manifestation of the first ancestor, it corresponds precisely to this elderly woman.
I have the opportunity, at this moment, to introduce you right here, as you can see, this puppet, from the thirteenth century: she is Faaro, she is the ancestor's puppet, she is very important ( he shows a puppet e.n.), so you're lucky we were able to take her outside yesterday to show you, it's extremely important.
I hope that in the coming months you will have the opportunity to see her in full.
If the year is bad, difficult, if there are calamities, it is only small carp that come out of the pumpkin when it re-emerges.
Once the sacrifices have been offered to Faaro, it is sung ( he sings in Bamananké e.n. ).
This would mean: "Here is the ritual dish for you, goddess of water, we want you to bless us, so that we can regain our health and the time to find ourselves next year in the same state of mind in the same state of conviviality".
We drink this water to balance ourselves, to open up, to walk, to travel, to connect.
So at the beginning, in the middle, at the end ... That is, from the unknown to the unknown.
This corresponds to fertility. It's all about fertility.
Thus, the human being is double: the water is double, it is the fertilizing egg, which corresponds to the divine seed.
This means that in cosmogony, water is not only a symbol of resurrection, water is also the woman and the woman is the representative of God on earth.
For us, when a person dies, he must return to the fetal state, to God, as if the child were to return to the womb of the mother, and this is knowledge.
These are things that allow us to be in connection with the whole relational spirit: with cultural identity, social identity, geography, geomancy, occult sciences, but also the environment, which make us be like species of extraterrestrials who converge there for happiness.
Here is how important this Faaro mythology can be, and once all this armadan is finished, we find ourselves in the town square, and this gives rise to a carnival: a carnival through which we look for evil spirits, doubt, contradiction, and in which we leave room for the transmission of this knowledge through fun.
So, between the fun and the sadness, there is laughter.
Antelope - Puppet habitable of the Sogolon Company
Hyena - String puppet of the Sogolon Company
Continuing with the documents that we have managed to trace about you, we learn that King Mamary Biton Coulibaly has a fundamental connection with the puppet: "He managed to recreate the genesis of the Malian people and popularized this art", you explain in some interviews.
Furthermore, we read: "In her youth, Mamary Biton Coulibaly was the head of the ton, an association of young hunters that he managed to transform into a professional army dedicated to his cause.
Taking the title of Biton, he joined the Somono fishermen to whom he entrusted a war fleet and extended the kingdom on both banks of the Niger River between Timbuktu and Bamako via Djenné.
His reign lasted 42 years and his army had more than 40,000 men, well trained and equipped with firearms, made by his own blacksmiths. "
WHAT IS THE LINK BETWEEN YOUR ANCESTOR KING MAMARY BITON COULIBALY, THE YOUNG PEOPLE OF THE TON ASSOCIATIONS, AND THE PUPPETS?
Being a puppeteer, in our country, means being a warrior, because puppets are the attributes of the royal court: you go through the puppet to stage war strategies and this is extremely important.
The puppets are charged with a magical power, what we call the Nyiama, which can allow us to be protected and to be in contact with the spirit of the ancestors; it is a kind of protection, and we have the possibility of being able to transform ourselves into a piece of wood, or an animal, or even a bird, as needed.
That is to say that man is double the puppet : it is not the other way around, it is the puppet that allows us to project ourselves better, like a kind of mirror.
It gives us more strength, it illuminates the path, it tells us: "So, what are you doing in life?".
The puppet is considered as an identity, it is a point of reference for us.
So when there is this grouping, the puppet allows all Tondions to join.
They are the members of Ton, the association of young people, people who will grow together, who will have an affinity, who will have the courage to do, who will learn to master pain, who will learn to keep the secret of the nation, who will specialize in such or such a field: unity in diversity.
It is extremely important to know this: the fundamental element that allows us to be together, to create social cohesion, to recreate tolerance, complementarity, is the puppet.
We do not consider the puppet as a piece of wood: for us the puppet is an ancestor, the puppet is a reference, it is the last resort: we start from the puppet, we do it in the center at the beginning and at the end of life.
This means that when an old puppet is damaged, and we absolutely cannot restore it, we have to prepare a funeral as if it were an old man who is dying.
It is extremely important to know this.
The puppet in our country is not like the Guignol theater!
When one is not initiated, one cannot; each group, according to his understanding, according to his age group, is at the disposal of a group of puppets and not the group of puppets at the disposal of man: it is the group of young people who make themselves available to the puppet.
You can't just take a piece of wood and cut it, you must first make a final sacrifice, bring two chickens and goats, you must first ask the spirit of the bush, the spirit of the forest, the spirit of the tree to authorize us to cut the wood, that is, which authorizes us to break the balance of nature a little.
Once the rite is finished, the puppet is carved, presented as if it were a new bride and all members take an oath on the Boli, on the fetish of the community.
This pushes us to have a common responsibility, pushes us to unite, to overcome ourselves, but at the same time it brings us back to humility, making our home a welcoming land.
When a foreigner arrives for the first time, the first thing to do is bring him a bowl of water, he drinks the water, he quenches his thirst, we say: "Now you can sit down", he sits down; therefore, we can bring him some food, he eats; and then we can open the speeches.
This legendary hospitality allows that if we discuss together, we can find something together.
And so the puppet allows us to go beyond ourselves, it allows us to travel both in the sky and in the depths of the water : we must be like the vultures that correspond to the essence of the 266 signs of the Cosmos .
This is very important.
Arithmetic plays an important role in balance.
One, unique singularo, could be a game on God the creator (points out the sky with the index finger e.n.)
The 2 is the connection between the water and the sky, it causes germination.
This generation gives 3, which corresponds to the divine human seed.
The 4 is the woman.
The 5 are the 5 fingers of the hand, without which there is no work.
The 6 are the 6 centers of the human being.
7 is 3 plus 4 equals 7, 7 equals 2, 2 is life.
8 is the celestial symbol.
9 does not exist for us, it is a negative number.
10 is fullness, therefore water.
So, when we say 10, it means that: one can fall into the water of the river, one can get up again; you can fall into the water of the well, you can get up again; you can fall into the water of a swimming pool, you can get up again; but when you fall into the woman's water, you never get up again.
This is the umbilical cord and the soul of the people: sometimes a decision made under the weight of anger is rash.
And so Biton, who was also a former member of the Ton, becomes a reference.
As a former member, as a reference person who also becomes a manager, he has the right to respect, he has the right to supervise, he has the right to safety and he also has the right to embody himself through an act of transmission of the codes of life.
And these codes of life are transmitted through the puppet.
WHO IS THE BOZO PEOPLE AND WHAT RELATIONSHIP DOES IT HAVE WITH THE PUPPETS?
To talk about the origins of the puppets and the Bozos, you need to know the Mande, the country from which everyone started: the Bozos arrived immediately after the dispersion of the Mandingo people.
At the end of the 6th century there was an empire called Wagadou, which reached its heyday when the empire of Mali was born.
There was a great migration that made the Bozo people a minority, a minority race in the same way as the Somono.
In our way of conceiving solidarity, it is clear that whoever is in the minority must be protected and given the responsibility of leading this or that grouping.
Of course the Bozo, before becoming fishermen, were hunters: a Bozo will never say he goes fishing, a Bozo will always say he goes hunting. He comes from Mande before he was a Bozo.
So the puppets come from deep in Mande.
There are two traditions related to the origins of the puppet: there is the spirit of the deep bush and there is the spirit of water.
One day a hunter went hunting, spending a week without catching anything; one evening he was able to speak with a spirit who gave him a first puppet called Maanin, which was also encoded by the hyena.
Back, he introduces her to the village council but the next day the puppet disappears.
At this point, a woman going to collect shea nuts in the bush, is seduced by the bush spirit who gives her the puppet.
She returns with the puppet, introducing her to the village.
This is a version related to the spirit of the bush and the mountain.
When the Bozos arrived they were in the minority, therefore, the Bamanan people gave them the responsibility of controlling the water, of crossing the water.
So they were also entrusted with the social organization, in any case that of the puppets.
In any case, as far as I know, when I'm here, a Bozo can't claim to be behind the puppet. I was the one who gave him the puppet.
You cannot give someone responsibility and then take it away.
The first people who came and saw the puppet shows said, "Ah, it's the Bozos who organize", following the first signs they said it was the Bozos who were the origin of the puppet.
There are various versions ...
This version of Toboji, I respect it.
So the Bozos come from the Wagadou, they are, like us, princes of Mande, the Bozo like the Dogon, the Bobo ...
So it is more or less the same, only accountability makes a small difference in connection according to the role that such or such grouping plays in our society.
This is important, and it is true that the Bozo puppets play an extremely important role in bringing the spirit of water to abundance.
The Bozo are related to all those who inhabit the water: in ninety percent the Bozo puppets allude to fish, the hippo, all the amphibians, to Faaro, to which they are always connected.
I think Faaro also goes through the Bozos in order to communicate with others.
This is therefore the origin of the Bozos, who are an extremely important community, albeit a small one, they are a very precious community in the field of consolidation, of the mastery of power, of ethno-sociological, cultural, artistic, environmental coordination, and also in the ecosystem field: it is very important to know this.
I am very happy that you have managed to make a good path, putting this interview together, in my opinion they are extremely important pages in the field of understanding the current affairs of Mali, which is very rich and also very complex.
There is no predominance of this or that community: there is an interaction between all the communities of Mali: the Malinke, the Bamanan, the Bozo, the Somono, the Peul, the Tuareg, the Soninke, the Songoi, the Sorai ...
All this means that there is an interaction between all communities, no community in Mali can claim to be superior to the others.
In me there is the beginning of the other just as in the other there is my beginning.
In our Bamanankan language we say: "Fa bonda ani bamunda, faso, ani baso."
This creates this unity, this sharing of responsibility, but also of trust, because one cannot speak of the life of a nation without stability and this stability is not only in coexistence, but also in the cultural base and in the people who are considered as resources: the Bozos are resourceful people.
WHAT DOES SOGO BO MEAN?
Sogo Bo is the celebration of life.
We have two categories of puppets.
When they represent the animal we say Sogo, but when they represent the human being we say Maanin .
At the origin of the creation of the universe, when there was the cataclysm, when all creatures emerged, humans and animals lived together.
They lived in a village, cultivated a large wheat field, the harvest of which was enough to feed all the inhabitants of the earth - this is extremely important.
There were carnivores, there were herbivores, there were amphibians, there were vertebrates, invertebrates, the water allowed us to embody the breath, the first breath that allowed each of us to breathe better.
Now, to celebrate this life, we gather in space in the form of Sogo Bo, that is the revelation, we celebrate life in a carnival atmosphere, exposing the balance of the year, the balance of the initiates, of comradeship, of solidarity, but also making an evaluation of everything that has happened.
The Sogo Bo is the report of the Ton association.
During the winter period, young people gather in a Ton, a small group of public interest, they go to cultivate the field of a leader in exchange for something, they can receive goats, sheep, rice and millet.
But Sogo Bo is also a tribute to women, because it is the women who collect the baskets of millet and rice, have an extremely important role in the organization of this association.
Once the harvest is finished, it is the women who form an organizing committee for reception, accommodation and food.
We are looking for a woman in the village, whatever her age, she can be a young woman, she can be an elderly woman: a woman who has the trust of the association.
Elected to the rank of godmother, she presides over the social and practical organization.
When it is decided, at the end of a general meeting, on which day the Sogo Bo will be, it is she who will go from family to family, from door to door, to collect the largest cloths and the most beautiful carpets of all the houses.
These mats and cloths will serve to cover the backs of the puppets, because a puppet that appears on the village square must be richly dressed, like a human being, must be the very image of social cohesion - this is important.
Thus, once the Sogo Bo is finished, the godmother collects the clothes she has borrowed, and goes from family to family to give each woman back the clothes that have been taken.
Women play an important role in social cohesion, in Sogo Bo, which is not only the celebration of life, it is not only the revelation, but it is also paying homage to the spirit of the dead.
This is Sogo Bo .
THE SOGO BO , TRADITIONAL FESTIVALS OF MASKS AND MARIONETTES, CAN BECOME A SOURCE OF EARNINGS WITH THE ORGANIZATION OF EVENTS FOR TOURISTS, OR SHOULD THEY BE PRESERVED IN THEIR DEEPEST AND ORIGINAL NATURE?
This is an essential question.
Today it is a question of resisting and preparing for survival.
If we touch this community, it is as if we touch all the community.
A kind of environmental catastrophe is falling upon us, in our universe of life.
Victims of what we now call economic or development problems - I don't know if it's development.
Of course there was the construction of dams, which caused many contradictions, which diverted the bed of some rivers such as the Bani, the Banifing, the Baoulé, the Bagoé, where the fish could come to lay their eggs, we saw the disappearance of various species of fish, which means that there is a loss of income, because the fisherman cannot live without the fish.
Then there is the use of chemicals, which affects not only the Bozos, but the whole planet: the world is sick, very sick because of its children on earth.
The abusive use of pesticides has made many fish disappear, has changed the ecosystem itself, has made rare birds that herald the seasons disappear: the arrival of such a bird could mean either the mating season, or the fishing season, or the beginning and end of the season.
We are in total contradiction with all this, and it is man's fault.
There is also what I call the aggression of all religions: religious fanaticism like Islam, like Christianity, has brought about an escape that has weighed heavily on ancestral and social practice, which means that people have more whether or not they changed the structures of their life.
The Bozos, who were inhabitants of the lagoon, left to settle on infertile lands, this changed the life of fishing and became itinerant traders.
All of these are things that have had a big impact on us.
Added to this is the dismemberment of villages and the impact of the government's own policy.
For example, new ways of living have been brought in that have nothing to do with the traditional essential.
We are here, like this: there is the weight of Islam, there is the weight of the church, there is the weight of politics ...
There is confusion.
All this has changed our habitat a lot.
So, I would simply like to say, there is a proverb in our country: "One never refuses to wash the face of one who has one eye."
We resist, we resist, these cultural and social values of ours make us a kind of microbiology that is there, as long as there is water, as long as there is breath, we can continue to live.
As long as the wheel of history continues to turn, whatever these difficulties may be, the fact that there has been this mechanism of coexistence and that we are always taught by the art of puppets in its diversity of expression, we can continue and hope, because when there is none. it is hope, we cannot live.
So we adapt, the puppets also teach us through the Sogo Bo, that to resist better in life, it is necessary to have a chameleonic behavior .
WHAT CAN PUPPETRY DO TODAY IN RELATION TO CURRENT SOCIAL PROBLEMS? WHAT MESSAGE CAN IT BRING US?
WHERE IS THE AGE-OLD ART OF PUPPETRY GOING?
Today I am proud that there is a triumphal return of the puppet, not only in Africa, but on the planet, because one thing that I have understood, over the past 40 years, is that there is something exceptional happening.
That is to say that, for example, to pass a message, when the message passes through an actor, it is ephemeral, but when the message passes through a puppet it is eternal.
Look at the reaction of politicians to the Guignols de l'Info!
You see, they are afraid, because, whether it is the church, or Islam, or even the political power, they are afraid of the puppet and they know that what others say in a low voice, the puppet says it out loud and without worrying!
What makes Nyiama, the life force that weighs on us all, is extremely important.
And this means that whoever wants to be is not a puppeteer: the puppeteer is a chosen one of God.
The day the puppet disappears, it will be the end of the world, there will be a cataclysm, it will be the last flood, it will be the greatest possible flood.
We do not wish it, we do not want it, we will continue to monitor.
Today, there is an environmental, ecological, political change.
There is also a change in world views, a change due to security problems, there are people who have been displaced due to climate disasters, there is also the aggression of certain communities by occult forces, which means that today the puppet, which could be considered as the first training school, has been joined by other schools that have changed the lives of the citizens of the village.
It is necessary to adapt, because culture, no matter what they say, must bring about renewal: the renewal of adaptation without changing the traditional structure.
As for reading school textbooks, we know that today for children in Europe, America and Africa, everywhere, the problem of the whole world is "Hello! Hello !" (makes the phone gesture to his ear with his hand e.n.) which means that children no longer read, all their memory is in the phone.
The adaptation of moral tales by the puppets today allows people, who have perhaps lost part of their identity, to be able to find themselves, allowing children to overcome animosity, to overcome the spirit of hatred - with all the brutality that we find in schools, violence is now rampant everywhere.
In the 80s there were small festivals in all the countries of Europe, during the summer, everyone gathered in the town square, these were occasions for children born outside their country of origin to recreate and have a approach to their culture of origin.
A socialization that allows not to fall into oblivion, to keep alive the curiosity of learning and identification.
Today, all these little parties have disappeared and this has caused confusion, more or less people have become robotic.
We know that in most countries, the higher the degree qualifications, the more jobs you find.
Cultural memory gradually disappears: people have become robotized.
It is a disaster.
The puppet has always taught that it is necessary to put man at the center of development.
I think it is necessary to create this spirit, to make sure that the world's disease finds its solution in this cultural cohesion that can bring international sharing and solidarity.
Today, there is an upheaval in the communication tools, as now, between us: thousands of kilometers away, we are exchanging and at the same time changing, because by exchanging between us, we change at the same time.
Why can this happen? Because we are bearers of something, a value that makes us cultural mestizos.
I think that the puppet, or even the cultural aspects around the puppet, will make it possible to create a home, an instrument of friendship and sharing, of co-production, of creativity to be built together, over time, that the learning of life is not limited to just one day.
We have to go slowly and have a big echo, we have to open our ears, it's time for everyone to open their ears...
We go on, it's time to unite, it's time to federate the spirits: the puppet has always indicated this.
If we grow in this field of understanding, even if you are geographically, physically away from me, it is as if we lived in the same place at the same time.
I am very happy that this interview can serve to awaken curiosity, to push other talents like you to be able to approach the culture of this or that entity.
My father told me, through the puppet, that the puppet allows us first of all socialization but above all it will make us become a capital of human resources: it is important, extremely important.
It's extremely coding, it's about the very existence of the human being, so we'll get to that.
The puppet, creating this vortex, teaches that there is a system we call the glaciation system in the water.
We see today the great glaciers that are melting, there is a sudden change in everything, but it has been predicted for some time.
This inadequacy is a road of history: the glaciations system pushes the world towards a block, and the puppet says that for unlock the situation, we must gather around a cultural aspect, around the puppet, to have more fertilizing water, because the ice, when it melts, will raise the sea level again, causing many species to adapt, otherwise they will disappear.
We are all in this kind of pirogue, in this kind of canoe, which makes us eternal travelers always in search of our brother or sister, until the end of the world.
Together, let's unite and make human intelligences available for cultural resources.
A people can cause their own political failure, they have time to recover; a people has time to cause its own economic failure, has time to recover; but when a people gives themselves the means to cause their own cultural failure, they will never recover.
Culture is like a bird's nest, together we enter the puppet's nest to federate the fertilizing waters.
String puppets of the Sogolon Company
WOULD IT MAKE SENSE FOR YOU TO IMAGINE A SHOW ON THE THEME OF WATER?
I am the son of water, I am one of the last survivors of the great initiates.
I belong to a kind of social class that always goes towards the spirit of water; I'm always close to the water.
From a young age, I have always been concerned with the conservation of this river, which is considered the umbilical cord and soul of the Malian people.
The whole history of West Africa is along this river, which is like a mythical snake that goes from Fouta in Guinea to its mouth in Port Harcourt in Nigeria.
This river has always sang.
There are a number of great empires that have succeeded and replaced each other and the Niger River has always told the story of the life of the Mande.
My life, as a spirit of Faaro, as a son of Faaro, is linked to water.
I have fought against government action and polluting industries for forty years.
There were spaces that were protected all along this river, but uncontrolled urbanization has degraded the environment.
I say that if we are not careful, this river is in danger of disappearing, even if our lives are tied to it.
Our economy is based on agriculture, which means that we have an agro-forestry-pastoral economy, which means that our life is linked to water: we have the agricultural production that made Mali the granary of Africa western; there is the largest hydroelectric infrastructure ever equaled in the European continent, it was installed in Mali in 1924, it is the Markala dam.
Mali is the leading producer of sheep and goats in the Western Sahel; we have water-related parties, we have water-related creations; there is also the crossing of the river in Diafarabé, by the Fulani community every year at the end of April, the shepherds return from the pasture, because they have been away for 3 or 4 months and return with well-fed animals, you cross the river Niger, from Diafarabé, in the Mopti region, and this gives rise to a great party, an extraordinary party.
My latest creation will start next month, it will be The Goat Sacrifice.
We decided to create a show to ask the spirit of water to help us preserve this river which is our memory, our source of nourishment, this river considered as the very source of the existence of the country: if this river disappeared, it would be the end of something exceptional.
We are working on this, and with many international organizations, such as the World Health Organization.
I have managed to create many shows in the field of public hygiene, that is, the use of polluted water, the fight against diarrheal diseases, the fight against cholera, against bola, against many diseases that are related to water in order to preserve this source of nourishment.
As Father Desmond Tutu said, peace be upon him, and Mandela said it too: "It is true, we are poor, but we do not have the right to live with a garbage dump".
We do not have the right to litter the Niger River.
I intervene every day, in my small awareness-raising creations also on behalf of FAO, the International Fund for Agriculture and Food, I have intervened very often in the creation of entertainment and awareness shows, especially not to use very chemical products along the River.
The other problem that I have often pointed out to protect the water is that in ninety percent of the cases you will find that city cemeteries, especially Malian cities, are often found in the riverbed; so, during the winter, there is run-off water that drains, which is not good at all.
Likewise, textile factories, especially those that produce batik, discharge dirty water, which greatly contributes to making the river sick.
In the conclusion of my next show, I remember that the next world war is going to be about water, and if the next world war is about water, we currently have the last world reserve of water, in our subsoil anyway, that's where we have to. be very careful: do not abuse water, we must conserve water, we must use it with patience, we must make sure that water is a source that we respect.
YAYA COULIBALY during the shooting of the first VR film, as part of the "Restitutions partagées" project, "Accès Culture" program of the French Institute and of the AFD - Agence Française de Développement. Credit: Culture en Partage
Facinet Coulibaly, General Director of the Sogolon Company, Cultural Entrepreneur, Lawyer, Puppetist and Artist Agent
MONSIEUR FACINET COULIBALY, WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR YOU TO BE, TOGETHER WITH YOUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS, THE HEIR OF THE IMMENSE TRADITION AND KNOWLEDGE OF YOUR FATHER?
First of all, let me thank you for this question, I admit that the matter is indeed of paramount importance to me.
It is truly a source of pride and a great responsibility to take care of the heritage we possess, as well as to plan the future to be able to organize ourselves better, to ensure that this millenary art that exists in our family can perpetuate and develop so that future generations can also appropriate it.
Talking about safeguarding the heritage also means talking about promotion.
As you can imagine, 25,000 puppets cannot remain in an unsuitable situation, they need a lot of protection.
We have traditional systems that allow us to safeguard them in our own way, but we will not simply limit ourselves to traditional solutions.
We want to adapt to the evolution of things, we must think about having adequate infrastructures to protect them but also to enhance this millennial heritage that we have, to guarantee that it is possible to share it for the benefit of other countries, also entering into the dynamics of transmission.
The creation of the Center is of fundamental importance for me and my brothers, as well as for all the other members of the Company, to contribute to the promotion of this art.
We all participate in one way or another in the life of the Sogolon Company : in the promotion, protection, design, construction of the puppets.
We have twenty members in the Company, of which twelve are permanent.
Nine are part of the family, not all directly involved in the shows, but each participates in one way or another, sometimes in the design, in the creation of a puppet.
Next to this we work in collaboration with other structures, so if we need we are supported in one way or another by an assistant from another Company.
As a result, everyone plays different roles within the family.
For example, I in particular, in addition to being the Manager Director of the Company, cover various other roles: I am a Director, a Puppeteer.
In addition to all this I contribute by giving great support to other companies.
I have also been a Cultural Entrepreneur, for almost 5 years, I am in a continuous dynamic of training and updating to have the professional skills necessary to exercise this aspect of the profession.
Today I am part of the African elite for the enhancement of our cultural identity: we have our own way of seeing things and we want to develop it with traditional solutions, also focusing on new contributions such as technology.
Being a puppeteer doesn't just mean being a sculptor or puppet animator.
The art of puppets is a complete art, around this picture we have the field of music, dance, storytelling, painting, sculpture, costume.
Collection of over 25,000 puppets of the Sogolon Company
WHAT PROJECTS DO YOU HAVE FOR THE FUTURE OF THE SOGOLON COMPANY?
Future projects will never be lacking, today in particular we have three flagship projects.
The first is the construction of the West African Traditional and Contemporary Puppet Center here in Bamako.
The goal is to finish this Center as soon as possible to be able to save not only this heritage we were talking about before 25,000 puppets, but also to allow us to have spaces for the promotion of this art, to have spaces for rehearsals and others that they can welcome the public.
The second project is the organization of the Traditional National Week of the Marionette Arts of Mali that we are developing in collaboration with the National Museum of Mali and I objectively think that this can be realized already this year.
The third project is to put ourselves in the dynamic of training other young people, who have the same aspirations as us, to share the skills that our family has cherished for centuries.
It is with great pleasure that we share everything we do on a daily basis, we are very happy to be able to share with the whole world.
Today this is possible thanks to social networks : they are opportunities to show our skills but also to allow others to share our way of doing things.
We have our own cultural identity which is based on the art of the puppet tradition for centuries, which is different from what is happening all over the world, especially in Europe; therefore, it is a way to virtually promote it.
It is true that there are many people who have known Yaya for years already because he is considered a world icon of puppets.
But it doesn't matter, there are many other young people, like in my generation, who don't have enough information about our company; it is my goal to reach this audience around the world by sharing information about everything we do.
I mean, and I think it is extremely important, this type of communication not only allows you to connect to the international world, but also allows you to show that in the deepest parts of the world there are many activities going on, not just wars, famines or things of the genre, but that there are also people who make a living with their art , even if there are difficulties.
I and all the other members of the company, as well as my brothers and sisters, have this vocation and we are part of this dynamic: it is with will, with true love and self-denial that we share everything we do.
Puppet art is a universal art, millenary, there are different forms, there are different ways to make, represent and also contents that are different.
Most of our shows are based on stories, narratives, salient points of society we have traditional solutions that we decide to adapt to the current context of evolution of things.
The sharing of information, the training of skills, the transmission are all extremely important things: here at the Center we receive ambassadors, ministers as well as simple visitors every day, we will always be happy to be able to share our experience.
I continually think about the best ways to find new forms of communication, suitable for the evolution of the world, to allow not only to communicate with the rest of the world, but to share this art professionally and seriously.
It is a question that has to do with our very existence, we ourselves should be able to value what we do so that others too can truly respect the art of puppetry in the world.
If with other people we can share the same aspirations, communicate in relation to the puppet, for reasons related to construction, show or reflection, if we can share all this through our different communication platforms, to transmit the maximum amount of information, we we will always be available to remain in this dynamic of sharing.
Facinet Coulibaly, with two puppets of the Sogolon Company
ESSENTIAL LINKOGRAPHY OF YAYA AND FACINET COULIBALY
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