still from
Still from "Tomo" by Bakary Diallo. Courtesy Videobrasil

There is an expression in Bambara, a Niger-Congo language spoken in Mali, which refers to a territory abandoned because of war or conflict. This word, “Tomo”, also gives the name to the last video work made by Malian artist Bakary Diallo, which won him, as a prize, the residency at the 18th Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil, in 2013.

Em Tomo (click here to watch), the conflict that Bakary refers to in the title can be war or between spirits. In the work, we follow the course of a subjective character psychologically disturbed by his real experience of war. He walks through an abandoned village that has been taken over by the souls of those who once lived there. They are represented by ghosts, ectoplasm, characters in flames and in smoke. Still clinging to earthly life, they continue to carry out their daily activities, performing such everyday gestures as closely as possible to reality.

The writer and curator Renee Akitelek Mboya [1] – in an episode of the Videobrasil Collection series – considers it interesting, from a linguistic perspective, “to imagine the environment that led to the need to create such an expression, which in itself is surprisingly inclusive and independent”. She also recalls that when the work was presented, the country was already immersed in the Civil War in which it lives to the present day, which began on January 16, 2012.

The circumstances we see today in Mali are similar to those we saw before the war and those generated by the conflict: an intensification of protests in a troubled north, and problems that caused widespread hunger and internal displacement. It was under these circumstances that Bakary made his film. There has to be a way to use different media, especially video, to restore a sense of humanity to people or figures that are only considered in terms of statistics.

Mboya points out that in the work, the character is seen tearing up the earth, in what she refers to as an attempt to physically pull out the trauma of war, perhaps a way found by Bakary to illustrate the violence that this very land has known.

Going beyond the analysis of the visual content of the work, the curator asks “whether Bakary, with this work, was doing some kind of memory ritual, or a ritual to honor the countrymen he lost”. Unfortunately, the author can never answer the question of his fellow filmmaker, the Malian died in a plane crash in July 2014, while traveling to France, from where he would leave for Brazil to do his artistic residency at the Instituto Sacatar, on the island of Itaparica, in Bahia. Before that, in 2010 he won a grant from the Lagardère Foundation for his work “Les Feuilles d'un Temps”, shortly after starting his studies, in 2007, at the Bamako Conservatory of Arts and Multimedia.

Working mainly with video, he used elements of everyday life to build synthetic narratives, which often question the effects of violence. He has presented his films in exhibitions such as the Biennial of Contemporary African Art, Dak'Art, Dakar (2012), l'Afrique en mouvement, Montreal (2012), 9th African Photography Biennial, Bamako (2011), and 20th Experimental Film Week. from Madrid (2010). She attended Le Fresnoy – National Studio of Contemporary Arts (2010).

The idea of ​​my works is to leave a great opening because around a work, there is the artist's imagination, the collective imagination, after that we have the interpretation that one or the other can have on that work. That's why I always try to be as open as possible, so that people can travel and dream.

Still don't know the Commented Collection?

Videobrasil Commented Collection is a partnership between arte!brasileiros and Associação Cultural Videobrasil. Every 15 days we publish, on our platform and on our social networks, a part of its important collection of works, gathered in more than 30 years of trajectory. Check out the other episodes in this link.

About Videobrasil

A institution was created in 1991 by Solange Farkas, the result of the desire to host a growing collection of works and publications, which has been gathered since the first edition of the Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil (still Videobrasil Festival, in 1983). Since its creation, the association has worked systematically to activate this collection, which brings together works from the so-called geopolitical South of the world – Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia and the Middle East –, especially video art classics, own productions and a vast collection. of art publications.

This project contributes to “rediscovering and relating works from the Videobrasil collection, and thematic aspects, in the voice of critics, curators and thinkers, illuminating urgent contemporary issues”, says Farkas.


[1]  Renée Akitelek Mboya (Nairobi, 1986) is a writer, curator and filmmaker. Her custom is one that is based on biography and storytelling as a form of research and production. Renée is currently concerned with looking at and talking about images and the ways in which they are produced, but especially how they have come to play a critical role as evidence of white paranoia and as aesthetic expressions of racial violence. Renée seeks to better understand the ways in which images are used to reinforce the institutionally fabricated narrative of the racialized body as a constant danger to the law. Renée works in Dakar and is a collaborative editor for the Wali Chafu Collective.

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