TO BE: Mamadou Dougnon is a Dogon blacksmith/woodcarver by birth. He is father of three boys, Hama, Senou and Brahima, who will be trained as blacksmiths. He is the father of one girl, Binta-daiy who will one day marry a blacksmith. He is husband to Aisa, and son to old Binta, both daughters of blacksmiths. Mamadou is a gifted sculptor and carver of the funeral masks that are an essential element of Dogon animist culture. He is an artisan for whom much of his work maintains a traditional utilitarian function. He is a small business entrepreneur.
TO DO: Mamadou dared to stand up to the middlemen who had always bought his sculptures for pennies. He had the courage, at 31 years old, to travel with his Peace Corps Volunteer friend to Bamako, Mali's capital city, for the first time in his life.
There he made good money for the first time when he represented himself at a crafts fair where he sold his work - directly from the artist to the consumer. He worked with Shawn to develop products for the tourist market: from hairpins and letter openers, to salad tongs and candleholders. Mamadou also transforms scrap metal and wood into the tools that the community of farmers uses to manage the crops that sustain them.
In 1999, Mamadou traveled to Vermont to visit his Peace Corps Volunteer friend, Shawn Davis, and to participate in the Vermont Woodcarvers Association Annual Convention. Here, he demonstrated his skill as a wood carver to 40 Vermont woodcarvers. Reflecting on his trip to the US before his return to Mali, Mamadou said, "I'm adding to my thoughts and knowledge. I'm taking all these little things that I've seen and gotten from here and I'm going to go back and find what I know (at home) and put it all together. I thought I knew a lot. Now that I've come here I know a lot more." Upon his return to Mali, he had a sign made that says "Dogon Sculpture for Sale" with an arrow pointing toward his house and has continued to increase his access to the tourist market.
TO ASPIRE: Mamadou wants his children to go to school and learn French and math-two skills he wishes he had in order to become an even more successful businessman. He hopes to return to the US to participate in future educational demonstrations and exchanges. He looks forward to the day when he will have the money to rebuild the house of his father (who died a few months before Mamadou was born) in his native village of Ireli at the base of the cliffs of the Bandiagara Escarpment.