Abu Bakarr Mansaray
Born 1970, Tongo, Sierra Leone
Lives and works in Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in western Africa; in choosing a career as an artist Mansaray has laboured to stem the collapse of a nation drained by civil war. After leaving school in 1987, he settled in Freetown, where he became a voracious autodidact, studying all aspects of practical science and engineering. He revived a technique especially popular in central Africa of manufacturing decorative objects or toys out of wire and iron. But he applied an extreme form of this technique to build futuristic machines for extravagant purposes, creating contraptions that could produce fire, light, air, water, cold, motion, and sound. “I am an artist making creations without limitation. I do drawings, paintings, sculptures . . . I also invent machines for my own use at home and sometimes for other people,” he has proclaimed.
Mansaray’s preparatory drawings also stand as independent artworks. These studies consist of detailed calculations, sketches, diagrams, and commentaries executed in pencil, ballpoint pen, and crayons. “I like doing strange, complicated drawings and designing intricate machines inspired by scientific ideas that are at times beyond the human imagination (for example, the machines I designed called Hell Extinguisher and Nuclear Telephone Discovered in Hell). . . . I want people to feel the power of creation.” No doubt the economic, political and social situation in Sierra Leone, a country where war has left behind nothing but ruins and charred bodies, has shaped Mansaray’s imagination and the inspiration. In 1998 he managed to escape his country under extremely difficult circumstances, and spent several years in the Netherlands; however, his work continues to bear witness to the horrors of war.
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
Alpha Crucis, Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo, Norway (01.22 to 09.30 2020)
Rothko in Lampedusa, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Palazzo Querini, Venice, Italy
Afro-Tech and the Future of Re-invention, Begleitheft zur Ausstellung, Exhibition Booklet, HMKV Hartware Medien Kunst Verein, Dortmund, Germany
Design Histories between Africa and Europe. Flow of Forms / Forms of Flow, Museum für Völkerkunde, Hamburg, Germany
Art/Afrique, le nouvel atelier. Les Initiés, un choix d’œuvres (1989 – 2009) dans la collection d’art africain contemporain de Jean Pigozzi. Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, France (04/26/17 to 09/04/17)
Magic and Power Of Magic Carpets and Drones, Marta Herford Museum, Germany
Independent Brussels, Brussels
L’art et la machine, Musée des Confluences, Lyon, France
Unorthodox, The Jewish Museum, NY, USA
Biennale di Venezia, 56th Exhibition
Luminós/C/ity.Ordinary Joy: From the Pigozzi Contemporary African Art Collection, Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African & African American Art, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
9th Taïpei Biennale
Ici l’Afrique/Here Africa - L’Afrique contemporaine à travers le regard de ses artistes, Musée des Suisses dans le Monde, Château de Penthes, Pregny-Chambésy, Switzerland
1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, London
Fiac Officielle, Magnin-A , Paris, France
Art Genève, Switzerland
1:54 Contemporary Art Fair, London
Art Paris Art Fair, Paris
Art Paris, Just Art! Grand Palais, Paris, France
Marrakech Art Fair, Marrakech
ACM, Mansaray, Rigo 23 & Volyazlovsky,
Andrew Edlin Gallery,
New York, NY
ARTPARIS+GUESTS. André Magnin & Leridon Collection, Grand Palais, Paris, France
Insiders, CAPC de Bordeaux, France
2009 - 2010
Africa? Una nuova storia
Complesso del Vittoriano, Rome, Italy
Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli
Arts of Africa
Monaco - France
African Art Now : Masterpieces from the Jean Pigozzi Collection
Museum of Fine Art Houston
Houston - USA
2004 – 2006 (travelling exhibition)
Africa Screams – Das Böse in Kino, Kunst und Kult
The Evil and the Uncanny in Cinema and Art
* 29/04/04 – 12/09/04
Afrikazentrum der Universität Bayreuth
Bayreuth – Germany
* 05/11/04 – 05/02/05
Vienna – Austria
* 03/04/05 – 12/06/05
Aalen - Germany
* 08/07/05 – 15/01/06
Museum der Weltkulturen Frankfurt
Frankfurt - Germany
2004 (travelling exhibition)
Art contemporain d’un continent
* 24 July 2004 – 7 Nov 2004
Museum Kunst Palast
Düsseldorf - Germany
* 10 Feb 2005 – 17 April 2005
London – England
* 15 May 2005 – 20 Aug 2005
Centre Georges Pompidou
Paris – France
* Feb – May 2006
Mori Art Museum
Lyon Biennal for Contemporary Art
Die ver-rückten Stücke
Stiftung für Eisenplastik
7. Triennale der Kleinplastik
Design Histories between Africa and Europe, flow of forms, forms of flow, Kerstin Pinther, Alexandra Weigand (eds.) Museum für Völkerkunde
Hamburg, Allemagne, Transcript Design
Essentiel Paysage - Artistes Contemporains Africains face à l'environnement, catalogue d'exposition, Fondation Alliances, Musée MACAAL, sous la direction de Brahim Alaoui, p. 159
Les Initiés, un choix d’œuvres (1989 – 2009) dans la collection d’art africain contemporain de Jean Pigozzi. Editions Dilecta, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, France. Exhibition catalogue
L’art et la machine, Musée des Confluences, Exhibition catalogue, Lienart publishers, Paris
Mana tukukuq Illapa, Universidad Ricardo Palma, Lima, Peru, 2015
Exhibition catalogue. Published by Electa & Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli.
Exhibition catalogue. Published by TF Editores & FMGB Guggenheim Bilbao Museum.
Arts of Africa: The Contemporary Collection of Jean Pigozzi
Exhibition catalogue. Published by Skira Edition & Grimaldi Forum Monaco.
African Art Now: Masterpieces from the Jean Pigozzi Collection
Exhibition catalogue. Published by Merrell.
Africa Screams: Das Böse, in Kino, Kunst und Kult
Exhibition catalogue by Tobias Wendl. Published by Peter Hammer.
Exhibition catalogue. Published by Hatje Cantz.
Lyon Biennal for Contemporary Art, France.
7. Triennale der Kleinplastik
Exhibition catalogue. Abu bakarr Mansaray by J. Soulillou.
Text in German p.176-177.
Contemporary Art of Africa, p.164-167.
Text by Jacques Soulillou.
Edited by André Magnin and Jacques Soulillou.
Publisher Harry N. Abraams.