Ibrahim Ballo was born in Bamako, Mali in 1986. Raised in a family of artists, becoming one himself felt natural to him. He grew up in an environment of weavers where his grandmother was also a weaver. He learnt the skill at home but later developed it over the course of his training. Ballo earned two qualifications from the National Institute of Arts in Mali: a Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Arts which he obtained in 2012 and a Master’s in Visual Arts Conservatory of Arts and Multimedia which he obtained in 2017. In his work cotton threads affirm a strong link with the cotton history in Mali symbolising an uncertain time today where life hangs by a thread in Mali as elsewhere.
Ballo’s creative process involves merging paint and textile. It also involves looking at the history of cotton production in Mali. Cotton growers had to fight to demand significant policy changes in cotton production and marketing in order to gain a measure of empowerment. This means the action Ballo takes in his creative process where he integrates natural cotton thread with acrylic is loaded with historical symbolism. It preserves ancient practices in a context of modern textile manufacturing. Then the figure in the space of the canvas is placed in tension between the flatness of a pure and immersive painting and the high relief of the cotton knots.
The masked characters in Ballo’s work seem, like those of an ancient tragedy, to wonder about the tragedy of the human condition. Far from the disorder of the contemporary world, they immerse themselves in a ritual of meditation as if to wish away all the bad in the world. The harmony in the work is dazzling. According to Ballo, the most important point is not only the beauty of his creations but rather the message that they convey. This is why he often represents his characters with a red spot on their face to say that each human being camouflages a fragment of suffering in them. His paintings evoke themes such as oppression, betrayal, war and violence.
His group exhibitions include the 2017 Color migration exhibition in Vauréal, France and the 2015 Soul of Merit exhibition in Angers, France. He has had a solo show at the Off of the Contemporary Art Fair of Mali in Segou, Mali. His most recent exhibition titled Donne la Parole concluded on the 25th of February 2023 at the Carole Kvasneski Gallery in Paris, France. This exhibition is the result of Ballo’s two-month residency in Marseille, France which took place just before the exhibition and it serves as a new step in Ballo’s constantly evolving work.
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