Anna Binta Diallo at Towards Gallery

The exhibition Voyageur/Almanacs is Anna Binta Diallo’s second solo exhibition in the Towards Gallery. Diallo has a strong interest in folklore and in the natural world. She creates her artwork through a process of deconstructing and reconstructing the human body while mixing it with fragments of historical relics.

Towards Gallery brought Diallo’s digital collages together to create an immersive space of installation art. The larger-than-life silhouettes of figures seems as though they exist beyond our dimension—even our universe. Visitors encounter these pieces by slowly moving through the exhibition hall, during which they have a chance to sense the interconnection between the metaphorical figures and themselves.

Installation views of Anna Binta Diallo, Voyageur/Almanacs at Towards Gallery

In Anna Binta Diallo’s collage Boy with Lamb, scraps of various fragments, that not related by any means, have been collected and harmonized into a composition. The shepherd is walking straight ahead with his cape flying in the wind. He turns his face towards the viewer with a little black lamb laying in his arms. The robe and the face of the shepherd is made of an early heliocentric illustration. His thighs are covered in parts of the map of Arabia. Diallo combines different geographical and cosmic motifs in her work, involving elements from both the past and the present. Sacrificing animals has a long history. The shepherd’s boots are ancient Egyptian frescos showing men leading a lamb on a leash or carrying it over his shoulder. In Christianity, the lamb is a sacrificial animal, symbolizing our sins and our cleansing by its blood sacrifice. The lamb is a complex symbol that also can stand for the possibility of life, riches and peace. This collage uses various religious elements, showing Diallo’s migration history.

Anna Binta Diallo, Boy with Lamb (Shepherd), digital collage printed on hemp fabric, 58 x 44 inches

Seed Girl is an extremely complex, sophisticated image. At first sight we recognize the protractor in the girl’s head. Then we are attracted by her multi-coloured dress. The imagery immediately suggests geographical connections. The body is patterned by the latitudes and longitudes lines over a map of Africa. Diallo was born in Dakar, Senegal where the official language is French, so it comes as little surprise that the inscription in the middle of the composition is in French, describing aerography climate conditions. Those conditions highly affect the agriculture. The head and the hands of the figure are based on an image of the lunar chiaroscuro and the tracks formed by orbiting asteroids. Corresponding to the title of the collage, the plant located on the girl’s hand looks like a combination of a half open planet and a seed. The girl’s hair is made of an inserted engraving depicting the rural life of farmers in the past.

Anna Binta Diallo, Seed Girl, digital collage printed on hemp fabric, 58 x 44 inches

Diallo further addresses the concept of agriculture and astronomical knowledge in Harvest Orbit and Solar Orbit. They both use three circular images overlapping to create a structure, showing the interconnection between orbital movements, geological knowledge and human activities. The elements of zodiac signs and the agricultural symbolism in Diallo’s work, could be connected to the Renaissance art practice of The Labours of the months (1450-56) by Luca Della Robbia. They depict both the cycle of day-night and the relationship between astronomical knowledge and agriculture. The usage of earlier century engravings by Diallo is also a way of linking our present voyage to the past. 

Anna Binta Diallo, Harvest Orbit (left) & Solar Orbit (right) both, digital collage printed on hemp, 44 x 44 inches

By using folk stories and local materials Diallo created a series of collages that depict people’s lives from all around the world. In Two fishermen the Chinese fishermen figures are aesthetically broken into pieces and composed in a montage of local patterning. They are barefooted, the water waves are depicted in the covering of their bag. The patterns of their clothes show French-made, nautical charts of China (left) and an oriental etching of the local fishing industry (right). The fascinating colour palette of the work makes it even more alluring.

Anna Binta Diallo, Two fishermen, digital collage printed on hemp, 54 x 41 inches

In Voyageur/Almanacs, Anna Binta Diallo uses fragments of cultures and civilizations to create her unique subjects. Her collages provide a new perspective in viewing the world around us.

Vivian Sun

Images are courtesy of Towards Gallery.

*Exhibition information: Anna Binta Diallo, Voyageur/Almanacs, January 21 – March 5, 2022, Towards Gallery, 163 Sterling Road, Unit 144, Toronto. Gallery hours: Thurs – Sat, 12 – 6 pm.

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