Ibrahim Mahama


“The markings on the body are done for the purposes of identification and security because when people migrate from one region to another, they want to be sure that when some kind of calamity befalls them, their body can be a space where their origins will be traced. It sometimes could just be a name or the entire history of the bearer, depending on his/her life’s experiences. These are transferred into the bags for the same purpose of identification and I find that as transference of one space with its entire history onto another. The two materials with their personal histories create a critical language which presents narrative about the exploitation of labor, the transfer of value but also how contemporary societies can restructure their existence.”

Donated by Chiara Rusconi. C-Print on Dibond aluminium, 2014, 97.5 × 65 cm. Ed. 2/3 + 2 AP.

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Born in 1987 in Tamale, Ghana, where he currently lives and works.

Through the use of everyday materials – such as wood, architectural fragments and textiles – the Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama explores urgent issues related to the phenomenon of migration, globalisation and the movement of people and goods between different nations, shedding light on the invisible aspects of these processes. What emerges in his large-scale installation interventions is in fact the idea of the border that finds its highest degree of expression in the use of jute sacks sewn together and draped over imposing architectural structures. A symbol of Ghana’s markets, the sacks are manufactured in Asia and imported into Africa for the international transport of food and various goods (cocoa, beans, rice and coal). Torn, stitched and covered in various marks and coordinates, the sacks thus become a symbol of the conflicts and dramas that have taken place for centuries in the shadow of the global economy. In the work on display, the marks on a female arm are made for identification and security purposes, in order to trace the origins of migrants even in the event of death. The same signs are found on the bags for the same purpose. Eventually, these two materials, bags and leather, tell of the exploitation of work and the value of goods, including human ones.