Batalo East x Don Sen Folo: “The only way to work is to collaborate”

News overview

In a rapidly changing world, dance can help young people shape their identity and develop new prospects. In Uganda, dance platform Batalo East bridges traditional and contemporary, urban dance styles. And in Mali, on the western side of the continent, Don Sen Folo is training a new generation of dancers and choreographers. Through the DOEN Foundation, the initiators of these two organisations met for the first time. Abdul Kinyenya and Lassina Kone told us about their exceptional collaboration.

A universal language

Abdul, initiator of Batalo East, and Lassina, initiator of Don Sen Folo, grew up in different environments and have different educational backgrounds. But when they met for the first time at Festival sur le Niger in Mali, it felt like a meeting between blood brothers. Abdul: “It clicked right away, so we knew we had to expand this energy field by visiting one another again and joining forces.”

A creative community

DOEN facilitated a second meeting between Abdul and Lassina. They travelled through Rwanda and Uganda because Abdul wanted Lassina to meet Batalo East’s cooperative partners. To get an idea of the artists he works with and how he shapes their cooperation. How they build a sustainable creative community together. Lassina: “While travelling with Abdul, I met artists from East Africa, some of whom came to Mali to work with us after we met.”

Public space as a backdrop

During their trip, they organised numerous workshops with local communities in public spaces. Since there are hardly any theatres, Batalo East and Don Sen Folo use public places as a backdrop. Abdul: “Even a playground can serve as a theatre, enabling people – often youngsters – to join in if they want to. This in turn gives new meaning to the place and people feel differently about it when they gather there again.”

1 + 1 = 3

Abdul and Lassina love working together. Abdul: “Especially since we’re both leaders surrounded by young people, it’s great to meet a likeminded pioneer. And you don’t feel like you have to figure it all out on your own.” Their partnership also means a great deal to Lassina. “I’ve discovered Abdul’s vision and entrepreneurial drive, which motivates and inspires me enormously.”