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Artist profile: Nakounté Diarra

Nakounté Diarra, a traditional bogolan artist from Kolokani, Mali, came to the Folklife Festival in 2003. While presenting her work at the Festival, she was featured in an exhibition at the National Museum of Natural History called African Voices. Although most mud cloth artists work on their craft only from October to May, when it is dry and the crops can’t grow, Diarra is such a renowned artist that she works year round. Following in the footsteps of her great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother, Diarra began learning the art at the age of fifteen. Diarra has created many original designs as well as continuing more traditional patterns, but she always paints free hand, no hard edge needed. Nakunté calls her older, more traditional patterns “Bamalan,” and dubs her newer designs “Mali,” in reference to her (and her country’s) independence. She has passed along her considerable knowledge to an apprentice, Founemousso Sakaliba, who accompanied Diarra to the Festival.

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