Ibrahim Mahama is known for shrouding buildings in jute sacks. At least that is how I got to know his work at the major European art exhibitions – at the Venice Biennale in 2015 and at documenta 14 in Kassel in 2017. In Ghana these jute sacks, which are actually produced in Asia, are normally used to store and transport cocoa beans. Once the cocoa has been removed, the sacks are reused as containers for all sorts of goods. Worn, dirty and sometimes printed with details of their contents, Mahama has these sacks sewn together into huge lengths of cloth by a host of collaborators. As immense, over-sized linen sacks they become a type of monumental ‘façade shrouding painting’ but, thanks to the material, livelier and more low-key. In Ghana, Mahama has shrouded diverse buildings over the years, including a series of modernistic buildings from the expansion phase following Ghana’s independence in 1957: buildings that were frequently planned by architects from socialist countries. In a paradoxical movement these buildings, and the history they embody, are marked and highlighted through the shrouding: giant sacks containing buildings, which in turn house often forgotten or at least no longer visible stories and history. At the same time these buildings are overwritten with the complex economics (and not least their historical dimension) of which these sacks are an expression: from the history of the cacao plantations and the colonial exploitation of raw materials and resources, their reuse and further use, the – expressed in general terms – logistics, trade in goods and life under the regime of global capitalism and its mechanisms of extraction – for Ghana, alongside its west African neighbor Ivory Coast, is the world’s largest cacao producer. However, almost everything is destined for immediate export to the Global North. Of the wealth generated by cacao, almost nothing remains in the country. (Excerpt from Entry Points, a Text by Dominikus Müller, 2021)
Ibrahim Mahama was born in 1987 in Tamale, Ghana. He lives and works in Accra, Kumasi and Tamale. His work has appeared in numerous international exhibitions including Sharjah Bienniale (2023); 18. Venice Architecture Biennale (2023); Vienna Biennale of Change (2021); 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020); Stellenbosch Triennale (2020); 6th Lubumbashi Biennale, Democratic Republic of the Congo (2019); 58th Venice Biennale (2019); Documenta 14, Athens and Kassel (2017); 56th Venice Biennale (2015). In 2023, Mahama is curating the 35th International Biennial of Graphic Arts in Ljubliana, Slovenia. In 2019, he opened the artist-run Savannah Centre for Contemporary Art (SCCA) in Tamale, Ghana. This was followed by the Red Clay Studios in nearby Janna Kpeŋŋ in 2020 and Nkrumah Volini in 2021. All sites house exhibition spaces and serve as research facilities and centres for artist residencies. They represent Mahama's contribution to the development and expansion of the contemporary art scene in his home country. They also include ongoing educational opportunities for children and young people.