Seeing Ousmane Koné dance, controlling his movements with the grace of a bird, there is little that hints at the hardship this 29-year-old has overcome.
Now a professional dancer training inmates at the Bamako Central Prison in Mali, he draws on his past to encourage a new crop of artists.
Like many of the prisoners, Koné was living on the streets. At 13, he had left a difficult homelife and spent the subsequent ten years feeling lost. Eventually, he was jailed for cannabis possession.
But for Koné, prison was a new beginning. He reawakened his love of dance through a program to teach creative arts to prevent violent extremism and aid rehabilitation delivered by Think Peace Sahel, a local NGO that the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF) supports.
“Assessments show that prisoners out of jail without a strong network, family or a job are highly vulnerable to be involved in illegal activities. Extremists, living in cramped conditions alongside petty criminals, can exploit these vulnerabilities and use prisons as a place to recruit,” said Dr Lilla Schumicky-Logan, Head of Portfolio Management at GCERF. “This allows inmates to identify new areas of self-growth, the program improves the mental health of inmates and provides lifelong skills.”
For Koné, he now has the confidence to continue as a performance artist. With support of Think Peace, he has already established a business called “bôlon-tièn” meaning the “reality of the street” to train young people interested in a creative arts career.
Read more GCERF Snap Shots here.
GCERF is a GCTF Inspired Institution. The Inspired Institutions are independent organizations that complement the Forum’s mission and reinforce the practical use of GCTF resources across the globe.
Photo supplied by Think Peace Sahel