Five major actors of children’s literature in Mali

Just as in the other West African countries previously examined, namely Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire, Mali also has its number of authors and illustrators of children’s literature who have distinguished themselves nationally and internationally through their achievements.

Keywords; children’s literature; Mali; authors; illustrators 

Progressively, the outstanding actors of children’s literature in French-speaking sub-Saharan Africa are promoted. After Ivory Coast and Senegal, we have decided to focus on Mali to present a few authors in the field. In light of the trajectory adopted in the preceding articles, this piece is to make these exceptional people of the field, who stand out in their countries, known.   

Ousmane Diarra

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Ousmane Diarra may not gather crowds in Mali like a president of the republic, but he is an important figure in children’s books.  He was born in 1960, the famous year of independence in some French-speaking African countries, in Bassala, Mali. From a general point of view, he is an author who navigates in several genres, notably novel, poetry, short story and of course, children’s literature. His first attempt in the novel genre was a master stroke as « his first novel Vieux lézard won three prizes: the Ahmadou Kourouma Prize of Geneva, the RFO Prize and the Prince Pierre Prize of Monaco. He went on publishing others, not with the same success but following a technique and style of writing proper to griots. In his career, he  had the opportunity to rub shoulders with other worlds by participating in fairs in France, Sweden and Guinea.     

As for children’s literature, when asked why he is interested in the world of children’s books, his answer is quite striking: « I write children’s books, but also novels for adults, short stories and poetry. I loved to listen to stories when I was a child. I tell them and write them. It’s a choice. My childhood stayed with me. »[1] It is therefore no coincidence that this multi-dimensional author has committed many children’s works such as: la longue marche des animaux assoifés, l’hyène et les chèvres de la vieille femme and the list is very far from being exhaustive.  As a well-trained griot, he becomes, in his activities a transmitter of culture and a vector of the African heritage, poured in the tales since he animates since many years already through the hour of the tale to the CCF of Bamako. Now, let us introduce while paying tribute: a goldsmith of the literary creation in general.

Moussa Konaté

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Moussa Konaté was born in 1951 in Kita, Mali.  Apart from poetry, he has embraced all the other genres notably novel, detective story, the tales, theater, essay, short story.  As for the theatrical genre specifically, he distinguished himself by receiving the Sony Labou Tansi prize for high school students for his play Un appel de nuit. He was a pioneer and a reference in literature for a long time. His passion for writing led him to resign from his position as a French teacher.  If we have decided to call him an outstanding value of children’s literature in Mali, it is precisely because he is one of the few in the field to have produced children’s novels and storybooks. In the record of the albums of tale, it is an established fact that they are in national languages. Among other productions, we can cite: : la savonnière ( 2003) ; le forgeron ( 2005) ;  Tombouctu (2006) etc…

            The latter didn’t limit himself to writing, he set up the publishing house Le Figuier in 1997. This made him at that time the first author-publisher in Mali. By establishing this publishing house, one of the objectives was to breathe new life into children’s literature. Among other things, this is what the following statement shows: « He published his first novel in 1981; founded a theater company and created Le Figuier publishing house. This publishing house has deliberately focused on children’s literature in order to show the real face of Africa to young people around the world, far from clichés.[1]  Later in France, in Limoges precisely, he set up the publishing house Hivernages. Unfortunately he died in 2013.

Aly Zorome


Next to Moussa Konaté, comes Aly Zoromé. The latter is a fine specialist in illustration, caricature and drawing for publishing houses in Mali. He is a close collaborator of Moussa Konaté insofar as he has illustrated several of his children’s books, notably Tombouctu (2006), le pays Dogon ( 2006), Le tisserand ( 2001)  and many other productions.  His profile seems to be more complete when you look at the BNF website[1] : « cartoonist in the press and with Malian institutions. – Cartoonist, member of the Atelier BDB (Bande dessinée de Bamako). – Illustrator of works for young people.  In this record, according to the magazine Takam Tikou, he would have illustrated a little more than twelve works for youth between 2000 and 2015.  One of his masterpieces is undoubtedly “l’imagier du caméléon vert”. The description of its content says a lot about the work and talent of this author: « these are 188 varied drawings for the little ones to discover the world around them. Animals, clothes, vehicles, everyday objects, musical instruments. The child learns to observe and express himself while having fun. » [2]

Aboubacar Eros Sissoko

Source : Another author, and not the least, draws our attention in this article, namely Aboubacar Eros Sissoko. The introduction of him on the Bablio platform[1] already informs us of his status as a children’s book author: « Today a specialized educator with children and young people, the author leads writing workshops and gives storytelling performances in the Paris »[2].  He was born in Bamako and is a visual artist by training, having graduated from the National Institute of Arts of Mali and the Ecole Supérieure des Beaux-Arts of Toulouse. Writing is a passion for him, which leads him to produce numerous works in different genres.  As far as Children’s litterature are concerned, we can note Moriba Yassa- une incroyable histoire d’amourSoundiata Keita le fil prodigue du Mandé, Mariama Kaba du mali to name a few. Looking at the titles, it is obvious that he is committed to the transmission of historical and cultural knowledge to the children of his country, Mali, and in a broader sense to all Africans.  Curiously, after a little or deep search, apart from the sites that mention the availability of his books in the sales platforms, it is rather rare to come across an article giving more details on his career.  This is not the case for Massiré Tounkara

Massiré Tounkara

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We close with Massiré Tounkara. It was simply impossible not to talk about this talented illustrator just as Samba Ndar Cissé in Senegal. The latter shows a very great mastery. Already, his adventure in the genre is like a vocation, a call because just at age 12, he created together with his friends, the comic Lucky Luke in the Malian way. He is a real fighter who took several courses as part of his training as a cartoonist illustrator. We can mention among others: the courses of initiation to the techniques of the comic strip, organized by the French Cultural Center of Bamako, a training course of initiation to the techniques of coloring comic strip animated this time in Amiens in France in 2002.  In terms of production, we can mention his very first comic book entitled Yoona, la nouvelle planète (2000). He collaborated with Ousmane Diarra notably by illustrating his work: les jumeaux à la recherche de leur mère[1] . We can also note his collaboration with the famous French essayist Christophe Cassiau-Haurie in the production of the comic: Les dogues noirs de l’empire.  His talent is more perceptible through the article on his person entitled: Massiré Tounkara, a hope for the Malian comic strip.

            He participated in international meetings around the comic. After his internship in Mali, he took part in the Amiens comic book meeting in an exhibition dedicated to Malian comics. In addition, he took part in 2003 in the exhibition « bulle d’Afrique » in Brussels. One of his most noticed works is probably: l’illustration de la célèbre cathédrale de Notre-Dame d’Amien . He is the co-founder of the BDB club (Bande Dessinée de Bamako) which will eventually be the Atelier BDB. In short, we note that Mali contributes in its own way to the promotion of children’s literature in French-speaking Africa, in particular through these few authors that we have just presented.  Far be it from us to pretend that we have done the whole thing, since there are others who are also doing a commendable job. 

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