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in La Villette, the killing machines of Mansaray

Abu Bakarr Mansaray draws and writes on large sheets of paper, two meters long and one and a half meters high, and on smaller ones. He developed complex technical diagrams, explained by arrows and annotations, enhanced with colors and, sometimes, inhabited by human beings or by kinds of short-haired lemurs. They are flying and warlike machines or systems of cables, connections and multiple and intertwined cogs. The titles in underlined capitals tell us that it is sometimes a  » nuclear phone discovered in hell », Sometimes of a « Wizard plane « . The latter would be, according to the handwritten notice in upper and lower case that accompanies it « A MYSTICAL WEAPON capable of destroying WITCH AIRCRAFT and WITCHES « .

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Roughly described, it is a double turbojet vehicle armed with a very long and sharp unicorn-like stinger. As much as it does, the other mechanics which Mansaray reveals the building blocks and operation of cannot fail to recall spaceships seen in countless sci-fi movies.

Graphic dexterity

A major difference separates them, however: the drawn and handwritten presentations of Mansaray seem to be the work of the most scrupulous of engineers explaining in detail his inventions to other specialists with exemplary educational concern and not the results of cinematographic special effects aimed at distract.

He started the series in 1999. Previously, he made models with recovered metal parts, the subjects of which were already imaginary machines. He had the idea very early since, born in 1969, he welded his first tube and rod assemblies in the 1980s. It was in Freetown, capital of Sierra Leone where he had settled in 1988 and where he showed his constructions in the open air in front of his house. It was there that they were noticed in 1991 by André Magnin, who was already to his credit for having participated in the preparation of the exhibition “The Magicians of the Earth” which took place in Paris in 1989, and is looking for unknown artists in Africa. Mansaray was therefore not invited to this historic event and his work was not widely recognized until the end of the following decade.

An attachment to the most extreme thoroughness, put at the service of an invention that
however, cares little about plausibility

Since then, it has been shown often, from the “Africa Remix” exhibition which passed through Paris in 2005 to the Venice Biennale in 2015. The works shown today at the City of Science and Industry belong to the collection of Jean Pigozzi, of which an anthology including Mansaray was presented to the Louis Vuitton Foundation in 2017. Their presentation is therefore not of the order of revelation, but of confirmation.

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