Original artwork.
“Le Vieux Forgeron du Village” - 14 x 17 in. (36 x 43 cm), graphite on bristol.

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Le Vieux Forgeron du Village

14x17 graphite on bristol.

In Malinké culture, the blacksmiths (forgeron in French, or numuw in Mandenkan) play an important role in the village, and are greatly respected. Traditionally, the numuw are part of a social group called nyamakala, which consists of skilled artisans who work with spiritually-charged materials such as wood, metal, clay, leather, and even words. The man pictured here belonged to a well-known blacksmith’s family and was widely respected in the village. I found him to be both kind and wise, and he assisted me with some important tasks on my last trip. He is also the younger brother of the blacksmith who is featured on the cover of my book, Djoliba Crossing.

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