Islam and Islamic Arts in Africa

by Allen F. Roberts
University of California, Los Angeles (formerly University of Iowa)

Praying figure and other larger-than-life works made from painted iron rebar rebar in the Dakar studio of Ndary Lo, 2006. Photo by Allen F. Roberts and Mary Nooter Roberts.

Most contemporary artists in Senegal are ardent Sufis, and some express their devotions through their works. One such is Ndary Lo, whose evocative sculptures formed from recycled reinforcing rods (rebar) have been displayed in a growing number of European exhibitions. Lo addresses a number of different subjects as seen in this photo from the artist’s studio in Dakar taken in 2006; but prominent among them are larger-than-life elongated iron figures in postures of prayer that “lift their arms toward the sky, palms open, offering. They remain there, for an instant, perhaps for eternity” (Falgayrettes-Leveau 2002: 5). Lo is also a gifted photo-realist painter, and his portraits were featured in an installation entitled “Refusal of Rosa Parks” displayed in the 2006 Dak’Art Biennale of Contemporary African Art. He has begun painting images of Sheikh Amadou Bamba in a similar style, and one day hopes to hang an immense portrait of the Senegalese Sufi saint on a New York skyscraper (Roberts and Roberts 2012: 427).