French Language Blog

French Culture – Mali Edition Posted by on Jan 9, 2018 in Culture, Music, Vocabulary

France, like a number of European countries, once controlled large areas of land outside of continental Europe. At the height of its colonial power, France had colonies from Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, to the Caribbean and the new world, and into large parts of Africa. Many of those former colonies make up what is known today as la francophonie* and continue to contribute to French culture around the world.

A French colony until its independence in 1960, Mali, located in north west Africa, is one of the continent’s largest countries.  This week we look at three related culture highlights.

Malick Sidibe
A new exhibit at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain (Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art … yes, that Cartier!) features des photographies** (photographs) taken by this Malian artist / photographer that capture the French- (and American-) influenced youth culture of the recently liberated capital Bamako***. You can enjoy some of them yourself and read more about Sidibe and his work in this excellent article from NPR.

Amadou & Mariam

Amadou Bagayoko and his wife Mariam Doumbia are a musical duo from Mali whose music and lyrics celebrate the unique culture and traditions of their home country. Both blind, they have still enjoyed a successful global career that includes performances with some of the world’s top bands. You can listen to a great interview with them here and enjoy some of their songs on their official Youtube channel here.

Bal de Bamako
As Amadou & Mariam tell us,le dimanche à Bamako, c’est le jour du mariage…(Sundays in Bamako are wedding days). More generally, Sundays are for celebrating. And this song from French singer Matthieu Chedid**** that I discovered during my trip to France last summer seems like a perfect ‘party song’ to celebrate the new year and the on-going contributions of France’s former colonies to the world heritage that is la francophonie.


* Of course some of those former colonies are still part of France today. Les fameux départements et territoires d’outre mer (les DOM et TOM) / over-seas departments and territories are as French as France. You can read more about la francophonie in this earlier post from fellow blogger John Bauer or visit the official web site of the Organisation Internationale de la francophonie here (the site is available in French, English, Portuguese, Spanish, and Arabic).
** Watch out for this one. The French word photographe is a false friend. Photographe in French means photographer. The word for a photograph (a picutre, in other words, as opposed to the person who took it) is either une photographie or more commonly une photo. The word photographie can also mean photography (the act/art of making photos).
*** Bamako has been estimated to be one of the fastest growing cities in the world (and the fastest growing in Africa).
**** Matthieu Chedid, who performs under the name -M-, is a child of north Africa/the Middle East himself. His father Louis Chedid is a successful French singer-songwriter of Lebanese origin, himself the son of the Egyptian-French writer Andrée Chedid.

Image Credits:
Mali – By By Rei-artur pt en Rei-artur blog [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Amadou & Mariam – By Jérôme from Rouen, FRANCE – Amadou & Mariam [1 @ RDTSE 2005], CC BY-SA 2.0,

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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Since my first trip to France at 16, I have been a passionate francophile. I love the language, food, music, art, people, and more that make France and la Francophonie in general such an amazing part of our global community. Having lived in France and studied the language and culture for over 35 years, it is my great pleasure to be able to share a little bit of my deep love with you through this blog.