Puppet company in Bamako, Mali. Yaya Coulibaly (b.1959), seventh generation descendant of Bitòn Coulibaly (also Mamary Coulibaly, King of Ségou Region in Mali), is the director of the Compagnie Sogolon (Sogolon Puppet Troupe), founded in 1980. The company does Bambara style performance. Yaya Coulibaly creates designs and productions in conjunction with multiple family members and others in performances that combine dance, drumming, song, words, and puppets, giant-sized to small. The works draw from traditional sources to make contemporary theatre. Coulibaly first learned puppetry under his father in a village context and then graduated from the Institut National des Arts in Bamako. In 1988, Coulibaly went on to receive a diploma from the Institut International de la Marionnette in Charleville-Mézières, France. Rather than following the traditional theatre, where text and narrative are not involved, Coulibaly has chosen to integrate dialogue and story in his company productions.

The Sogolon Puppet Troupe has expanded techniques and includes string puppets (a style not traditionally associated with Bamana puppetry) as well as traditional-style rod puppets and large body puppets. His visual designs draw from tradition but artistically extends ideas through his own aesthetic; Coulibaly is a master puppeteer who draws upon varied sources. The company includes females as manipulators, another break with tradition. Sogolon Puppet Troupe takes a uniquely contemporary approach to theatre. The company has performed in Europe, the United States (including at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC) and South Africa. Yaya Coulibaly’s figures have been exhibited in multiple venues. The company has collaborated with South African Adrian Kohler of Handspring Puppet Company on performance projects.

(See Mali.)