The raw materials with which Ibrahim Mahama works are jute sacks made in India or Bangladesh and shipped to Africa through Brazil. In Ghana they are used for transporting cocoa or coffee and can be found in almost every household as food receptacles. Having fulfilled their role in the food market, they then drift on to the coal industry. Mahama extricates these jute sacks from their utilitarian-nomad life cycle and transposes them into the world of art, where they become politically charged materials by the very reason of representing human sweat—global economy’s production means.
The stamp “Produce of Ghana” peers from the jute sacks through patches of dirt and grease, tears and stitches and stamps of their various trading companies. Flattened and depleted of physical cargo, the sacks manifest the vestiges of the hurls they underwent between their countries of production, transit and designation, and bear the ownership signs of companies and states like branding on the bodies of slaves. Their mobility is an expression of the global market; the scratches, tears and cuts reflect the price African countries actually pay for globalism’s illusion of abundance.
Ibrahim Mahama was born and raised in Ghana, studied art at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, and lives and works in Accra. Ghana was the first African state to receive independence, in 1957. Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, established trade relations with various countries and oversaw the construction of many monumental buildings, most of which are deserted today. Mahama applies his jute sacks to these buildings: he covers them, inside and out, while pointing to their rich history, and gives them a new life. Wherever he arrives, whether Accra, Venice, Michigan—and now Tel Aviv—Mahama thrusts these used jute sacks, with their blurred “Produce of Ghana” stamp, onto local architecture. In the case of Tel Aviv Museum of Art’s Lightfall, the gap between the elegant, angular structure and the jute’s rough, ragged texture is almost the tension and friction between the first and the third worlds. The fracture, as the installation is titled, applies both to the architectural bevels that punctuate the space and to the fractures and fissures in the places from which the sacks hail.
The project at the Lightfall was made possible thanks to the generosity of Jill and Jay Bernstein
Supported by Outset Contemporary Art Fund