PENDA DIAKITE

Siran Saya

48" x 36" 

Collage, acrylic, resin, hand engraving on wood panel

Jutuguni

48" x 36" 

Collage, acrylic, resin, hand engraving on wood panel

About Siran Saya


Siran Saya (‘the plant of life’) is a portrait of the artists’ grandmother, an herbalist and healer in Mali. This artwork is a metaphor for the resilience and power in black women, ebbing and flowing between history and present day. She treads the water, symbolizing the treading of struggles and challenges that black women face in today’s socio-political climate, while suggesting resilience: the ability to stay afloat and navigate challenges. All the while, Grandma’s favorite plant, ‘the plant of life,’ balances on her head in a gourd.


This particular plant signifies healing, and grandma would bathe in it for blessings. Known for reacting to touch, the nastic movement of this plant serves as a poignant reminder that life extends beyond human existence. Its responsive dance highlights the humbling interconnectedness of all living things, a Malian ideal that the artist carries with her. This plant becomes a potent symbol of self-preservation and resilience.


Containing the plant, the mended calabash gourd, like the woman, suggests the same repair and ability to overcome fractures and challenges despite past cracks or vulnerabilities. There is a capacity to mend, rebuild, and persist, sometimes resulting in something uniquely beautiful.


In the sky are gusts of wind in which the Malian mud-cloth pattern ‘wosoko’ (meaning ‘effort’) is engraved into. This pattern is a traditional historical image representing healers like Grandma, propelling change.


Droplets of water expelled as Grandma’s head emerges at the waters’ surface serves as a cathartic release of burdens or hardships passed down from generations.


Created with a combination of collage, acrylic, hand carving/engraving and resin on wood panel, this portrait encompasses the power in the black feminine, the capacity to stay afloat emotionally, spiritually, and physically despite adversity. It’s ancestors like Grandma that pass down healing to guide us through today’s challenges.

About Jutuguni


Jutuguni captures the Malian ideal of deep spiritual and ecological symbiosis between humanity and nature. Sabu The Healer is portrayed not just as a figure interacting with her environment, but as a conduit for the ancient and mystical relationship between human beings and the natural world. The act of diving into a river bath signifies a cleansing, unity and embracing the life giving force of water.


The 'jutuguni' plant, central to the scene, is alive with sentience and connectivity, symbolizing the dynamic and responsive nature of the natural world. These plants, sensitive to their underwater surroundings, are metaphors for the spiritual awareness and sensitivity that Sabu embodies. By carefully picking these plants for her herbal remedies, Sabu demonstrates reverence and an intimate understanding of the ecosystem's delicate balance.


The historical and evolutionary context of the 'jutuguni' plant adds layers of metaphor to the artwork. Its ancestors having evolved into both aquatic and terrestrial life forms speaks to the theme of transformation and the interconnectedness of all life. This evolutionary narrative illustrates a profound ‘unity of all living things,’ as we say in Mali.


Ultimately, this piece is a meditation on the unseen connections that bind all life together. The roots below the surface represent the hidden, yet fundamental, networks of relationships that sustain life. Sabu The Healer’s actions invite viewers to recognize and honor these connections, fostering a deeper appreciation for the intricate and sacred bonds between humans and the natural world. This piece calls for a reconnection with our roots, urging a harmonious coexistence and a more profound respect for all living things.