La Ballade Noctambule by Famakan Magassa


Country: Mali

Nominated by: Ronan Grossiat

Dimension: 145 x 149cm

Medium: Acrylic on canvas

In his paintings, Famakan Magassa (b. 1997, Mali) fluctuates between satire and empathy as he comments on issues of violence and vice. Magassa often refers to his subjects as ‘kôrêdugaws’: members of a secret, non-religious society in Mali whose initiates function as wise fools or playful tricksters in their communities, engaging in humourous behaviour in order to spread messages of community, generosity and humility. Taking their cue, Magassa portrays his subjects in a grotesque yet comical light, capturing the absurd and often contradictory nature of a society in which tradition and modernity clash.

In La ballade noctambule (2022), a woman carts her inebriated partner off in a wheelbarrow. Her gaze into a dark, starless sky suggests an overall sense of exasperation, while her single stiletto, the cart’s misshapen wheel, and the drunkard’s lolling tongue irreverently lighten the mood. In this work and others, Magassa uses morbid humour to discuss difficult themes such as addiction, desperation and conflict.