Ibrahim Mahama: Civil Occupation (Mousse Magazine)

Ibrahim Mahama is an artist for whom the collectivist potentialities of art production, recall the progressivism of political action. Mahama’s practice acts within the historical intersection of society and its commodities, placing an emphasis on processes in which art becomes the residual product of civic movement. His ambitious installations (”Occupation” 2011 – on-going) form a series of interventions in which symbolically loaded materials often associated with trade and export are utilized to question the role of the object within processes of daily transaction and exchange. Mahama’s epic installations encompass various sites, buildings, landscapes and people of his everyday existence. As totalizing artworks, they transform various contexts to reveal new spatial realities. They perform within the chasm of contemporary postindustrial society, among the clamorous high roads and crane-filled slums, skirted by open gutters of travelling debris.

Cladding, draping or hanging materials, the site of exhibition becomes an entry point into a discussion of trade, labour and capital. The exhibition space, in this context, would be the open markets, footbridges, fishing communities, old train stations and the many other morphing spaces of urban Ghana. His work exercises an expansion of the sovereign rights of the artists from the muchfetishized art object to the site of the exhibition itself i.e. the civic realm. Staged as interventions into public space, the collaborative process of such work implicates art in a set of complex economic and political networks, drawing attention to the urban and social paradigms inherent within so-called developing countries.

Mahama’s specific engagement with the conditions of Ghanaian trade, has led him into an intensive dialogue with the historical reality of its raw minerals and materials. For example, the exogenous factors underlining the transnational and global histories of cocoa to reveal the specificity of trade routes. Smuggled from an offshore island at the closing of the nineteenth century, cocoas’ subsequent cultivation as the nations foremost commodity engendered the growth of local capitalism in South-eastern Ghana. Mahama spends time observing the way in which today’s markets, absorbent of increasingly manufactured industrial and agricultural product, become sites for the entanglement of colonial legacies. Jute sacks matted with the residue of past produce, old Dutch wax fabric (or its cheaper Chinese equivalent), fishing nets, and other materials are woven into large-scale textiles composed through a collaborative process with urban migrant communities.

[Read More: Mousse Magazine]

Ibrahim Mahama, Civil Occupation, Ellis King Gallery, Dublin, 2014

Ibrahim Mahama, Civil Occupation, Ellis King Gallery, Dublin, 2014