'an italian architect has transformed life in a Mali village' Tamassin Ford 'a unique work that reveals the need to reconsider the use of light in public spaces' Xavier Monteys 'recycled bikes repurposed into street lamps, provide light to the night of Mali villages' Maja Fueter 'a fascinating research on ethnography and design' Giampaolo Colletti video reportage from the villages, Sebastien Rieussec for AFP Mali National TV news, Fousseyni Samake

FOROBA YELEN collective light for rural Mali
(concept and design Matteo Ferroni)

Foroba Yelen is a forefront solution to overcome darkness in rural Mali created by the italian architect Matteo Ferroni in 2010 to homage the rich malian culture with a new tool, a new space, a new beauty.

Turn the tree shade into light

'I considered light a cultural phenomena -rather then a technological challenge- wishing to brighten life rather than space. Ultimately I turned the tree shade into light, pursuing harmony between tool, culture and nature'. M. Ferroni

Collective light

Moving from Peter Kropotkin writings on independent communities 'Fields Factories and Workshops', in 2010 arch. Ferroni ran an anthropological study on collective facilities of rural Mali introducing the concept of 'collective light'. A portable lamppost shared as tool for work, education and cults, opposite to conventional public space lighting.

In 2011 he created the first prototype of portable lamp from an old bike. Since then he worked out its details so that it could be replicated by local craftsmen. One year later, through the expertise of lighting engineers, even the LED unit could be worked on site.


On the initiative of Fondazione eLand the project was experimented in the Commune Rurale de Cinzana. Local craftsmen were trained to manufacture the lamps and kits of four portable lamps were delivered to women collectives from 25 villages and 3 health care centres. The experience provided work and generated a new life after dark when everyone is back to the village… this tree of light impressively improved the life of a community accustomed to the glimmer of flashlights and the moonlight.


The project is a replicable model of a potentially huge impact on energy use. Fondazione eLand will soon release a handbook to allow every community to make their own lamps. For enquiries write to forobayelen@eland.org


The project drew worldwide attention as a model of integration between technology culture and nature. It was awarded with an mention of honour at the City to City Barcelona FAD Award, it was published by MoMA and major international media, it was exhibited at the Museo Nacional de Antropologia in Madrid and at the Biosphere de Montreal.

ORTM Mali National News

project run by

in partnership with

with the support of


Alassane Dimbo Keita (president Faso Gnietaa), Yusuke Katsura (JICA volunteer), Ruvani Fonseka (Peace Corps volunteer), Mauro Favalli (lighting engineer), Rokia Traoré (musician), Valentina Dellavia (scenographer), Youssouf Tata Cissé (ethnologist), Aly Kouriba (IER Mali), the women association of Sanogola village

Fondazione eLand
via Lengina 4b
6965 Lugano




FOROBA YELEN ® is a registered trademark, all rights reserved to Fondazione eLand. All rights of images reserved to Matteo Ferroni ©