The musician, actor and stage director is one of the most important ambassadors of African culture and his work has helped to open up new cultural horizons

Griot, actor, percussionist and stage director Hassane Kouyaté has been awarded the MAPAS 2019 ‘Cartógrafo Ilustre’ prize. Hailing from Burkina Faso, he is one of the most important ambassadors of African culture, demonstrating that the distance imposed by oceans and borders is nothing when it comes to sharing art.

Hassane Kouyaté was born in 1964 to a family with deep roots in the art world: he is a descendant of the highest caste of griots in the Upper Volta region. He possesses extensive training and experience, and has attained great prestige throughout his career. His early years of learning focused on the traditional music and dance of his native country in Northwest Africa. He later went on to study in Paris and Canada, opening up new horizons in contemporary performativity.

For five years, he worked as an actor and artistic coordinator with the Bouffes du Nord Company, directed by Peter Brook, which recently won the 2019 Princess of Asturias Prize for the Arts. With the company, he contributed to “the exchange of knowledge between cultures as different as those of Europe, Africa and Asia”, according to the jury.

Kouyaté has played a central role in producing geographical maps of culture. The shows performed by this figurehead of the performing arts, with their social and creative engagement, have moved audiences in Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Niger, Mali, Senegal, Togo, Guinea, Congo, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil, Reunion, Canada, the United States, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Spain, Austria, Germany and Cuba.

During his extensive artistic career, he was appointed as commissioner of the Organización Internacional para el Desarrollo de las Artes de la Palabra ‘Mondoral’ and Les Arts de Récits in Grenoble, acting as artistic director for twelve spoken word festivals around the world. These include Yeleen in Burkina Faso, the oldest storytelling festival in Africa, and La Maison de la Parole in French-speaking Africa. In Europe, he was appointed as director of the Festival des Francophonies in Limousin (France). As part of his professional career, he has also worked on cultural development in Martinique. In 2014, he took over the management of Tropiques Atrium, which is home to the island’s cultural action centre and the departmental cultural centre, where he has worked to identify, support and professionalise emerging teams, as well as to promote the arts among the
region’s population.

The ‘Cartógrafo Ilustre’ award was created by the Performing Arts Market of the Southern Atlantic to reward individuals and institutions whose work to promote cultural exchange deserves recognition in a sector full of wonderful figures whose work is not always acknowledged and in a society which continues to find new pathways in culture and the arts to overcome borders.

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