Portland-based artist and storyteller Baba Wagué Diakité expresses his African heritage in ceramics and illustrations. A selection of his artwork will be displayed this weekend, July 31 and Aug. 1, at Hanson Howard Gallery in Ashland. - www.babawague.com

The visual art of storytelling

As a child growing up in the west African country of Mali, Baba Wagué Diakité heard stories so rich in detail and person-ification that he could imagine trees speaking, shrubs moving and animals acting as humans.

Decades later, Diakité continues through art and literature the legacy of his grandmother, who told such captivating stories.

The Portland-based artist, storyteller and children's book author will lecture on his native homeland and read from his memoir, "A Gift From Childhood: Memories of an African Boyhood," at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 1, at Rogue Gallery & Art Center, 40 S. Bartlett St., Medford.

A selection of Diakité's hand-painted pottery and book art will be displayed from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, July 31 and Aug. 1, at Hanson Howard Gallery, 82 N. Main St., Ashland.

Diakité spent much of his early childhood in Kassaro, a small village in southwestern Mali, where he tended his grandmother's peanut and rice fields, as well as his uncle's sheep. Later, he moved to Bamako, Mali, to be with his mother and attend a French school. When he was about 24 years old, Diakité moved to the United States, where his interest in ceramics was born.

Diakité's bright, whimsical pottery and illustrations highlight his African heritage and creatures from his grandmother's tales. His artwork has been displayed in group and solo shows in San Francisco and San Diego, Calif.; Portland, Houston and in New York.

Diakité's first book, "The Hunterman and the Crocodile," was published in 1997, followed in 1999 by "The Hatseller and the Monkeys" and "The Magic Gourd" in 2003. He also illus-trated a book writ-ten by his 12-year-old daugh-ter, Penda Diakité, titled "I Lost My Tooth in Africa," a warm story about the African tooth fairy.

In 1998, "The Hunterman and the Croco-dile" was named a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. His books also have been recognized as "Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts" by the National Council of Teachers of English, and "The Hatseller and the Monkeys" was named "Notable Children's Book" by the Association of Library Service to Children.

In an effort to enhance understanding and respect between people of different cultures, Diakité and his wife, sculptor Ronna Neuenschwander, established the Ko-Falen Cultural Center in Bamako, Mali. The nonprofit organization was designed to encourage cultural, artistic and educational exchanges between the U.S. and Mali through workshops, dance and music.

For more information, see www.babawague.com. Call 541-772-8118 to reach Rogue Gallery or 541-488-2562 to reach Hanson Howard Gallery.

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