Saturday, February 14, 2009


This is a somewhat abstracted sketch of an African instrument called an Mbira. It's one of my favorite drawings. I particularly like the composition and the asymmetry of the "buttons" on the bottom. (In reality, they are bottle caps nailed on to the instrument to add a percussive quality to the finger-piano sound.) This was done on the same day as the cello.
You can see the instrument as it appears in the Boston MFA collection here. As you can see, the composition was the instrument-maker's, not mine.
I find that others are frequently indifferent to this drawing, and yet I've returned to it for inspiration several times, and I find myself repeating that pattern of buttons unconsciously, often echoing it with the arrangement of nine objects in a composition in another medium and with other objects.

PS: Listen to the sound of this on the MFA site. The piece they have, played on this instrument, has a repetitive quality that reminds me of the repetitive quality that this drawing has had for me. I love when themes are echoed and repeated with improvisation, whether in art, music or life.

1 comment:

Sepiru Chris said...

I have often thought of Mbiras as being inherently interesting, not just for their repetitive music, as you have noted, but for their appearance. Sad to say that I never stopped to question why.

I think you hit the bent nail and bottle cap on the head; it is their asymmetry. That seems right.

Wonderful sketch.