Original artwork.
“Balafon Player” - 11 x 14 in. (28 x 36 cm), graphite on bristol.

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Balafon Player

11x14 graphite on bristol.

The balafon is an ancient instrument that resembles a wooden xylophone, with gourds used as resonators. It has roots dating back to the 13th century, and factored heavily in the epic story of Sundiata and the creation of the Mande empire. The balafon is typically played by griots (members of a hereditary caste of oral historians and musicians). Training to play the balafon is intense and takes many years. This man was a virtuoso musician who had likely trained since he was very young. He performed at a festival in the village honoring the chief.

Drawing on Culture

An Artist’s West Africa Travelogue


In Drawing on Culture, Kobrenski shares his artwork, stories, and insights about culture and worldviews with the keen eye of an anthropologist so that we might, in turn, see our own cultural worldview with new eyes.

More than thirty new artworks from his time in Guinea are compiled here alongside his own field notes and essays. His portrait drawings inspire conversations about diversity, tradition, and why ancient ways of knowing are now more relevant than ever.

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“Dave Kobrenski is a gifted artist and musician, and a better anthropologist than many of the PhDs I know. Here is a fine text that depicts people as they are, illustrates their essence, and demonstrates the importance of appreciating, without appropriating, their lives and ways of being.”

Katherine Donahue, Ph.D, Professor Emerita, Anthropology