Iron Men, King Massassy’s first solo show in the UK, records the vibrant everyday life of Mali’s capital city, Bamako. Although marked by the realism of an artist who walks the streets for hours with camera in hand, the photographs hum with the humanity of their subjects, hinting at an approach that reflects life in Bamako with genuine empathy.
King Massassy’s photographs invite us to view Bamako’s unassuming iron workers in a new light as magicians of metal, allowing their dignity and gravitas to be appreciated. These atypical workmen are masters in the art of ingenuity. They are hardworking, inventive and emotional creators, showing courage in the face of the risks of their trade. Their industry is the backbone of the city.
These creators excel in the art of recycling metal to produce cooking pans, storage boxes, agricultural tools and parts for construction. When there are no more orders and nothing to weld—when the lights of rods go out, the sparks do not jump any more in all directions—we hear ‘dougou djalén do’: ‘the city has stopped’.
King Massassy comments: ‘To see these welders at work, I try to understand what it means for a human being to give it all, to his last breath of his life… To work without safety equipment because what prevails is the daily struggle to survive. Yet the bamanans say “do not let yourself be licked by what can swallow you”.’
Brighton Phoenix gallery
10-14 Waterloo Place, Brighton BN2 9NB, UK
May 04, 2019 to May 26, 2019