ABU BAKARR MANSARAY
b 1970 (Sierra Leone)
Citizen/scientist, artist/inventor, social/commentator, afro/futurist. Abu Bakarr Mansaray is an independent image-maker who is today respected as one of the pioneers of contemporary African art.
Mansaray’s idiosyncratic draughtsmanship stems from a childhood fascination with the magical and the scientific. His mythical machines, with their astounding details and interlocking visuals, seem otherworldly at first glance. Yet their origins are as personal talismans for a young man trapped by the horrors of Sierra Leone’s Civil War.
For it was during adolescence in the capital, Freetown, that the artist first combined his love of mathematics, engineering and science, with the manufacture of pseudo-kinetic models. These sculptures evolved an intimate science-fiction, which referred both to the tribal beliefs of his community and the horrors of the violence around him.
Fleeing to Holland in the 1990s, Mansaray continued to explore themes of conflict. As his confidence grew, so the works grew physically. Titles like SUFISTICATED HELL LIZARD, CHAMBER OF THE UNKNOWN, THE WITCH PLANE and BEYOND CREATION evidenced that both the inventor and his inventions remained inventive.
Yet this intricate detailing, logic and functionality, has always been counterbalanced by the delight with which the author chooses his words, names and captions. It is these, which hark back to the child within, whose fearless ego is nicknamed: The Master.
Mansaray’s practice continues to serve as a personal line of defence. For him, art treads a careful line between reality and fiction. For contained within each work is an aesthetic warning to mankind and a headline to jump-start social change and cohesion.
First displayed internationally at the Lyon Biennale (2000), Abu Bakarr Mansaray has risen to prominence through a number of key exhibitions, notably Simon Njami’s Africa Remix (2004), Why Africa (2008) at Pinacoteca Agnelli (Torino), Art/Afrique (2017) at Fondation Louis Vuitton (Paris) and The Museum of Everything (2016/17/18). The artist was also presented by curator Okwui Enwezor at the 56th Venice Biennale (2015).
Collections include the Contemporary African Art Collection (CAAC), the Houston Museum of Fine Art and The Museum of Everything.