Company created in 1986 in Bamako, Mali, by Philippe Dauchez (b.1929, Paris). After settling in Mali, Philippe Dauchez, theatre artist and professor emeritus at the Institut des Arts de Bamako (Bamako Institute of the Arts), launched in 1982 a puppetry theatre experiment in a psychiatric setting with his former students. Over a period of twenty-five years he had continued impact on the training and development of Mali’s theatre artists and the use of performance in solving social and cultural problems. Different types of puppets were at first used to entertain psychiatric patients but very quickly became therapeutic puppets (see Society and Puppets: Social Applications of Puppetry) to explain emotional problems and their remedies. In 1986, the Nyogolon Group was formed – with no financial help from the government – with six African actors and one manager to pursue therapeutic art. The troupe also created libraries in rural areas and participated in the establishment of a village for recovered emotionally disturbed patients.
Initially, members of the troupe did their own individual research; the actors then attended meetings with the health care providers. The puppet theatre performance was based on improvisation – and thus close to a form of improvised theatre in Mali called kotéba – and is called “useful theatre”.
In 1988, the Nyogolon participated in the Festival International des Francophonies en Limousin (Limoges Festival of International Francophone Theatres) with the play Tu ne mangeras pas ta femme (You Will Not Eat Your Wife), which was subsequently performed at the Villete in Paris. In 1989, a show was proposed for the rehabilitation of poliomyelitis patients.
In Bamako, mask-puppets are being used as therapy for the emotionally disturbed patients of Point G Hospital, under the supervision of Adama Bagayoko. Another experiment is underway with blind and sight impaired patients of the La Maldène Association.
Numerous groups were born out of the core Nyogolon Group, and have established themselves all over the country. In 1990, the TRACT association (Troupe de Recherche, Animation et Communication Théâtrale Troupe for Research, Entertainment and Theatrical Communication) was created from the Nyogolon Group and its troupe “Masques et Marionnettes” (Masks and Puppets) consists of six manipulators and one woman belonging to the long line of griots (historians, storytellers, praise-singers, poets and/or musicians). The actors perform in villages and in the language of the region where they are located. The shows are made up of small entertaining farces and educational sketches. Making use of old tales, the puppets, modern in style but drawing inspiration from tradition, communicate messages not only of health and AIDS prevention, but conservation of the environment.
In 1990, Kulu Si Diala, a show on the subject of AIDS, was created. In 1991, the first Tract-Théâtre Festival was held from February 20 to 23, in Bamako, with shows by the Nyogolon Troupe. In 1993, the subject of the shows focused more specifically on women and development. In 1998, the Nyogolon performed in Paris, with its theatre leaning more and more towards the preservation of Malian tradition, bestowing a special place to ritual and initiation.