Ghana's Ibrahim Mahama drapes huge buildings in recycled hessian sacks

Here's where you can see this acclaimed artist's work in Cape Town

16 February 2019 - 00:00 By Julia Freemantle
Malam Dodoo National Theatre, site specific installation by Ibrahim Mahama, 1992-2016.
Malam Dodoo National Theatre, site specific installation by Ibrahim Mahama, 1992-2016.
Image: Ibrahim Mahama/Apalazzo Gallery

From Kassel's historic Torwache in Germany to Accra's Malam Dodoo National Theatre in his home country of Ghana, artist Ibrahim Mahama has draped some massive buildings in his intriguing, tapestry-like artworks.

Often made in collaboration, his large-scale installations employ everyday materials gathered from urban environments — such as remnants of wood, shoeboxes and textiles — to comment on deeper social issues such as globalisation, migration, economic trade and labour.

Mahama has focused particularly on hessian sacks as his preferred medium, for their relevance to the trade markets of Ghana where he lives and works.

Made in Southeast Asia, the sacks are imported to transport cocoa beans but many end up as multi-functional objects, used for both the transportation of food and commodities and for many daily chores around the home.

"You find different points of aesthetics within the surface of the sacks’ fabric," Mahama says. "I am interested in how crisis and failure are absorbed into this material with a strong reference to global transaction and how capitalist structures work."

Ibrahim Mahama's 'Check Point Sekondi Loco. 1901-2030', a site specific installation as part of 'Documenta 14' in Kassel, Germany, 2017.
Ibrahim Mahama's 'Check Point Sekondi Loco. 1901-2030', a site specific installation as part of 'Documenta 14' in Kassel, Germany, 2017.
Image: Apalazzo Gallery

A vast number of these hessian sacks have been sewn together to drape the 9m-high interiors of the Norval Foundation's largest gallery for Mahama's latest installation, Labour of Many, which has just opened in Cape Town.

He's also represented at this year’s Investec Cape Town Art Fair as part of SOLO, a selection of curated solo presentations.

The 2019 Investec Cape Town Art Fair is on from February 15 to 17 at the International Convention Centre. Visit investeccapetownartfair.co.za

• 'Labour of Many: Ibrahim Mahama' is on at the Norval Foundation in Cape Town until  August 11. See norvalfoundation.org

• Additional reporting by staff reporter.


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