Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself? Where are you from? What has been your background?
Daffa Konaté, I was born and raised in the Paris region, I am originally from Mali and Senegal.
I worked for almost 10 years in the field of international solidarity. I have been living for 5 years in Istanbul where I founded Kelen. I organize cultural and artistic events dedicated to contemporary art from Africa, the idea being to talk about the continent in a positive way…to deconstruct stereotypes….
How are you living this period of COVID 19? Did it lead to a change in the way you work? What new things have you put in place to be able to carry out your activity?
This period was not easy at the beginning because I had two events that I had been working on for several months that could not take place: the exhibition “Africa on the Move” in Istanbul in March, and a short-lived sale in Nairobi in April.
Determined not to simply endure, I started video interviews with the desire to exchange with artists on this very special period, and to know the implication on their work.
Since the beginning of the school year, I have been refocusing on Turkey, since travel is complicated, by developing partnerships, notably with a café-gallery in Istanbul that supports associations in Tanzania.
Could you tell us about Kelen’s evolution?
Kelen has evolved a lot in 4 years, but the objective remains the same: to talk about Africa differently.
When I started, I organized exhibitions and sales, which were quite classical, even if the focus of these events has always been on the artists: origin, path, inspiration…
Today, I still organize cultural and artistic events and my challenge is to bring them to atypical places, such as hotels or restaurants, in order to reach more people, especially those who are not familiar with art.
Last year I was also working with a high school. I organized and coordinated a series of workshops, as well as an exhibition that has not yet taken place for the reasons mentioned above.
Where do the artists you represent mainly come from? How do you meet them?
Mainly from Mali and Senegal for obvious logistical reasons 🙂 but also from Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Congo and Kenya. I am open to artists from all countries.
I meet them during my travels and a lot, but also a lot via social networks. I am also approached by some of them.
What are your impressions of how the Turks perceive African art? Are they sensitive to it?
For many people, African art is just masks and a colorful, handcrafted art, so it’s a rather positive discovery. The Kelen events are a pretext to exchange around Africa and its diversity.
More than ever, VIDOC 19 highlighted the importance of arts and culture in the life of communities. How do you see the future of the promotion of African art in particular?
I think that the crisis has above all exacerbated the multiple dysfunctions of the cultural sector in many African countries.
We need to develop the local fabric: museums, art galleries, theaters, conservatories, etc.. A real challenge to overcome the lack of cultural policies. Everything must be built: structures, distribution networks and defining the status of artists. They must be able to sell in their country and create even more so that the economy of contemporary art emerges.