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Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in western Africa; in choosing a career as an artist Mansaray (born in Tongo, Sierra Leone, in 1970) 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.

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