ibrahim mahama

November 2022 - April 2023

This autumn, Oude Kerk welcomes artist Ibrahim Mahama. His research to develop a site-specific installation for the church space is currently underway. Below is some tentative information about his work.

In his installations, Ibrahim Mahama uses everyday consumer articles to explore themes such as trade, migration and globalization. His large-scale works, which he frequently makes in collaboration with others, are often composed of materials taken from urban environments, such as scraps of wood or burlap bags sewn together and draped over architectural structures. Mahama’s interest in materials and manufacturing processes first led him to focus on the burlap bags commonly used in trade markets in his native Ghana. Made in Southeast Asia, the bags are imported by the Ghana Cocoa Boards to transport cocoa beans and eventually end up as multipurpose objects used to transport food, charcoal and other goods. ‘The surface of the cloth from which the bags are made has various aesthetic characteristics,’ Mahama explains his choice of these burlap bags as material for his installations. ‘I am interested in the way this material incorporates crisis and failure and in its strong references to global transactions and the workings of capitalist structures.’

Ibrahim Mahama was born in Tamale, Ghana, in 1987. He obtained a Master of Fine Arts degree in Painting and Sculpture in 2013 and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Painting in 2010 at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. During his university years, he started a series of interventions and activities reflecting on the themes of globalization, work and the circulation of goods, presenting works that were in part co-produced through a series of collaborations with Ghanaian citizens. Mahama currently lives and works in both Accra and Tamale and in the latter, he opened the Savannah Centre of Contemporary Art (SCCA) in 2019, a museum space run by a group of artists and curators active in Ghana. Next, he also opened a vast studio complex, Red Clay, in the nearby Janna Kpenn in September 2020. The two locations include exhibition spaces, research facilities and an artist residency centre and constitute Mahama’s contribution to the development and expansion of the contemporary art scene in his country.

His work has been included in numerous international exhibitions such as the 22nd Biennale of Sydney, ‘NIRIN’ (2020); the 1st Triennale of Stellenbosch, ‘Tomorrow, There Will Be More of Us’ (2020); ‘Living Grains’, held at the Fondazione Giuliani (Rome, 2019); ‘Parlement of Ghosts’, held at The Whitworth, part of the University of Manchester (2019); and documenta 14 held in Athens and Kassel (2017). Mahama also took part in two editions of the Venice Biennale, in 2017 and 2015. In 2015, his large site-specific installation Out of Bounds, made from burlap bags, featured at the Arsenale.

Photo: Peter Rosemann