Dramane Diarra (1998) is a visual artist from Mali, a graduate of the Conservatory of Multimedia Arts and Crafts Balla Fasséké Kouyaté (CAMM / BFK), member of the Sanou’Arts collective, lives and works in Bamako.
He paints human heads like machines on canvases. The heads are made of cogwheels and gears and are located in indefinable spaces and all wear a helmet. They are surrounded by all sorts of objects like roses with thorns, chicken and ethnographic artefacts like statues used by Dogon and Bambara ethnicities at spiritual ceremonies.
Diarra depicts Malian proverbs : ‘I want people to reflect on our ancient wisdom, our culture is so rich and beautiful.’ He addresses subjects such as identity, moral wealth and tradition versus modernity. He explains: ‘I come from two different ethnic groups, Bambara and Dogon, who are known by their philosophy. I was lucky to have a very old father who had a lot of knowledge and saw this world change rapidly.
I also see the decay of cultural traditional norms and values all around me. People no longer know where they come from and are no longer proud of their ancestors and their wisdom. Everyone knows proverbs and by portraying them I hope people will think about the meaning of the proverb, but also about the Malian spiritual cultural tradition. There is decadence, people only look to the west and to Islam, but forget their own rich cultural history. My job is to wake people up and open their eyes to what is already so close.‘
Diarra uses the head as a machine because the head is said to represent reason and morals, but our heads have become machines who are running fast, without limits. ‘Human consciousness is being tested and African proverbs are an enormous source of knowledge and at the same time funny but meaningful’.