A storyteller through words and art

As a child growing up in the west African country of Mali, Baba Wagué Diakité heard stories so rich in detail and personification 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 work has been displayed throughout the United States.

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 illustrated a book written by his daughter, Penda Diakité, titled "I Lost My Tooth in Africa," a warm story about the African tooth fairy.

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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