Artistry of African/Diaspora Blacksmiths

i ni ce, thank you, merci: Apprenticing at a Forge in Dioro, Mali.

During her Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship in 1995, Janet apprenticed with a family of blacksmiths in Dioro. She made small knives with carved wooden handles and hair tressing tools, the beginning objects for all apprentices at the forge. The skills needed to make these simple tools introduce many of the skills used in the fabrication of all tools.

Her work at the forge was transgressive, since working in metal is usually the work of men, in Mali as in the rest of the world. Her teachers quickly became proud of her production, defending her to skeptical onlookers. The apprenticeship served as research for her own sculptural work as well as providing insight into the social context of blacksmiths in Malian culture. Janet has continued to visit forges in other areas on subsequent trips to Mali.

Website: Fifteenth Triennial Symposium on African Art, ACASA

March 23 -26, 2011