The first solo show in London of Ibrahim Mahama, a young maitre in African contemporary art has been mounted at White Cube Bermondsey. I discovered this artist at the first edition of 1:54, The Contemporary African Art Fair, which takes place every year in London at Somerset House, in Brooklyn at the Iron Works in Brooklyn and soon in Marrakech. In his early 30s, Mahama has graduated in Fine Arts, Science, and Technology from his native Ghana. He has done an impeccable artistic parcours since exhibiting with Saatchi Gallery, Charlottenborg in Denmark and Tel Aviv Art Museum among many prestigious artistic venues.
In these new bodies of work, Mahama explores time and transference, privation and potential, as embodied through objects
The immense White Cube space, closer to my perception of a museum than a commercial art gallery has been taken over by Mahama and his monolithic work. Perhaps curious of his own current and future identity Mahama in “Old Fadama” has covered an immense wall of the gallery with some hundreds of Ghanian birth certificates as if not sure of his own origin, identity or worried about his future ones. Remains also symbolises the paperless society progressing in Africa where even your identity and the essential details of your life, age, and marriage are now registered by technology and shared without protection or respect.
The media traditionally sculpted by the artist is made from jute sacks used to transport cocoa, coal and other raw materials or food. The sacks are prevalent in Africa and other continents at the center of trade and economic growth symbolic of transport, exchange, exploitation and wealth accumulation. In “Ziza Sullo” and “Crop Estate” the charcoal sacks have been decorated by scrap metal tarpaulin and metal tags. In “Out of Bounds” Somptuousat the 2014 Venice Biennale Ibrahim had covered a long path of 300 meter-long, 3,000 kg patchwork installation entirely made of old jute sacks that occupy the Corderie street, on the southern side of the Arsenale. It was designed and conceived like for the triumph of a Roman emperor made of rags and sumptuous and breathtaking.
The storm, the monument, which will transport you is “Non-Orientable Nkansa” where in that installation the jute sacks have been replaced by hundreds of shoemaker boxes and other small wooden objects used to build a monument to modern Ghana. Like if hundreds of shoeshine boys had dropped in precipitation their boxes and fled facing a terrible threat. This is a unique installation.
Finally, take an additional 10 minutes to look at “Exchange Exchange” a film which describes the immensity of most pieces of Mahama but how a whole population or part of a town participates to the elaboration and construction of these monuments.
Words/Photos Christian Sulger-Buel © Artlyst 2017 Top Photo courtesy White Cube
Ibrahim Mahama Fragments 1 March – 13 April 2017 9 x 9 x 9, Bermondsey, North Galleries, Inside the White Cube