Creating Greater Understanding and Respect Between People
Ko-Falen Cultural Center, located in Bamako, Mali is the inspiration of Baba Wagué Diakité, a Malian artist and writer now living in Portland, Oregon. It has been his dream to share the culture of his homeland with the people of his adopted home.
In Bambara, the word ko-falen means “gift exchange.” Ko-Falen Cultural Center seeks to promote cultural, artistic and educational exchanges between the people of the United States and Mali through art workshops, dance, music and ceremony. We believe that a greater understanding and respect between people can be reached through these personal exchanges.
Mission & Philosophy
Ko-Falen Cultural Center seeks to promote cultural, artistic and educational exchanges between the people of the United States and Mali through art workshops, dance, music and ceremony. We believe that a greater understanding and respect between people can be reached through these personal exchanges.
Ko-Falen’s vision is that a greater understanding and respect between people can be reached through these profound personal exchanges.
“The Ko-Falen Cultural Center gives us a reason to learn about other cultures and places that we otherwise wouldn’t know exist. This is definitely the beginning of creating relationships and getting acquainted with each other. Once you get to know each other, it’s easy to work together and appreciate each other. This is a great dream!”
– Yacouba Coulibaly, building engineer
Through its mission and programs, Ko-Falen sees an opportunity to facilitate cross-cultural exchange. By engaging in various forms of art making, program participants experience a unique form of education grounded in sharing and collaboration. These experiences break down the too-common stereotypical vision of plighted masses in a far away land and cultivate mutual respect, understanding and compassion. As a result, damaging power dynamics and misunderstood and misplaced inequalities are transformed into friendships and genuine personal relationships. People of different cultures are seen as equals, each with something extraordinary to offer the other.
Ko-Falen is unique in that it provides rich cultural and hands on educational opportunities for travelers, while offering encouraging situations in which Malians can engage. For many Malians, as with most people, the prospect of interacting with people of vastly different cultures is intimidating and at times impossible. Different communication styles, language barriers and economic standings can inhibit exchanges between people of different cultures, races, religions and ethnic backgrounds. By creating a center built by both local neighbors and visiting Americans, the Malians living in the Boulkassoumbougou neighborhood, are welcome to interact with people and share stories that may otherwise never have been told. Anyone seeking to experience such a journey is welcome.
Ko-Falen also raises funds for ongoing educational programs that focus on artisan families and their needs:
Sustaining Art & Craft
As we continue to celebrate our cross-cultural exchanges through art workshops, dance, music and ceremony, we also recognize there are exciting opportunities—and a real need—to help support and sustain the cultures, secret societies and arts of Mali, West Africa. Through conversations with craftsmen and art communities in Mali, we have collaboratively created projects that support artists and artforms, and their evolution—ensuring artisan communities and families that we honor and value their traditional contributions to our modern society while supporting their desire that their children have access to a 21st century public education.We invite you to join us in supporting these important projects. Artforms of Mali have been handed down through family lines for centuries. The male blacksmiths and their counterpart female potters create the perfect complement of artforms derived from fire. They preserve their knowledge by passing it to sons and daughters, nieces and nephews. The family lines of Djeliw oral historians are well versed not only in ethnic history, but in poetry and music, becoming accomplished kora, balafon, and n’goni players to accompany their praise songs. These artforms are handed down from grandparents, mothers and fathers to the next generations. Some handicrafts are specific to gender and to ethnic groups. Grandmothers teach their granddaughters to spin cotton into thread, then deliver it to male weavers. Mudcloth was traditionally the domain of Bamana women, handing down their personal stories to daughters and nieces and dedicating special events through symbols and images on cloth. Leather making was the domain of the Bamana’s Garanke and Tuareg caravaneers. Although the domain of artforms and their practices have gone through natural evolutions and have begun to break gender, class and family lines in modern society, many artforms are dying out due to the breakup of the family. To this end, Ko-Falen Cultural Center seeks to support endangered artforms by supporting the family structure. Please support our educational campaigns in Mali that support contemporary education first and foremost to artisan children.