Ghana: the mad ambitions of the artist Ibrahim Mahama

Ghana: the mad ambitions of the artist Ibrahim Mahama

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At 35, artist Ibrahim Mahama sparkles with success. His career is like a fairy tale. Still a student at Kumasi University of Science and Technology, Ghanahe was noticed by the curators of the prestigious Tate, in London.

Speculators smell the potential in the market. British collector Charles Saatchi, a former star maker, immediately included him in a collective exhibition. At 28, the Ghanaian electrifies the Venice Biennale in 2015 with a huge patchwork of thousands of jute bags sewn together, marrying the long architecture of the Arsenal.

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Two years later, at Documenta in Kassel, the most prestigious contemporary art event held every five years in Germany, this “second skin” used for international transport covers emblematic buildings of the city, vestiges of Nazi bombast. Other artists would have been giddy for less.

But Ibrahim Mahama did not want to restrict himself to jute, which has become his signature. Even when collectors and museums ask for more. His art unfolds today in multiple directions. Witness the exhibition dedicated to him by the Regional Contemporary Art Fund (FRAC) of Pays de la Loire, in Nantes, until October.

Transforming Ghana’s Cultural Landscape

Huge wooden doors framing of the of wax, jalousie windows dating from the colonial age opening onto a fabric landscape… On a gramophone, vinyl records from the 1960s and 1970s bought from an old DJ in Accra make post-independence music resonate. By recovering furniture and architectural elements that have fallen into disgrace, the artist becomes an archaeologist of the past.

But Ibrahim Mahama is also a socially committed builder. Like Barthélémy Toguo in Cameroon or Yinka Shonibare in Nigeria who, with success, have returned their share to the community, Ibrahim Manama wants to transform the cultural landscape of Ghana and free the imagination of his compatriots.

Read also: At the Dakar Biennale, artists revisit the continent’s past

In just a few years, he launched three cultural projects in Tamale, his hometown. Located a hundred kilometers from the border with Burkina Faso, deprived of infrastructures in the field of health and education, it benefits little from the country’s development. “It is there, in communities that would never have thought of art, that you have to register, says Ibrahim Mahama. We must launch projects where there is nothing and compose new stories from the remains of history. »

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