Every artist’s dream is for their work to live on beyond public exhibitions in galleries and museums. These are works with timeless themes, whether they are about imaginative concepts or a world of abstract and inanimate ideas.
That is what Ghanaian-born artist Ibrahim Mahama hopes to achieve with his work. He uses stitched coal sacks to explain the imbalances in global trade and commerce on the global market. According to Saatchi Gallery, his remarkable installations have targeted the unfair supply and demand conditions in many African markets.
His raw materials are sacks imported by Ghana Cocoa Board, the West African nation’s cocoa regulator, for the tonnes of cocoa exported to Europe and other parts of the world. Mahama collects these sacks after they have been used by cocoa clerks and charcoal sellers and uses them to create his concept. He occasionally exhibits his work in marketing centers, challenging the status quo of artists waiting for their works to be displayed in public galleries and museums.
He uses the markings and trade connections of where these sacks are from, as well as their names, on the jagged brown fabrics to convey his message of inequality in commerce and trade. The transit routes and vessels transporting commodities out of African markets are emblazoned on these sacks.
These sacks’ markings and commercial entity names speak for themselves. In reality, they bear the marker identity as well as the role they play in African markets, and they seek to question the impact they have on the people.
Mahama’s attempt to call these imbalances into question stems from his country’s reliance on raw agricultural products such as cocoa, which is exported abroad but generates few dollars in revenue when compared to what European nations and the West make when they add value to it.
The jute sacks have become Mahama’s way of questioning the governing authorities’ socio-political laxity, which stretches as far as the coal sacks, which embrace every angle of the object the Ghanaian artist seeks to drape it with.
According to the University of Michigan Museum of Art, the disparity is depicted with regard to the porters who cart the goods in the scorching sun to the warehouses and ships transporting them to Europe and the Western nations.
Many art enthusiasts describe him as a visual artist who is concerned about his people’s current social conditions and rallies activists to speak out against trade inequalities. The use of jute sack is another attempt to trace the long-standing trade history of agrarian to a developed economy and the role of labor, and to criticize the governing authorities as well as the flaws in natural resource management for the benefit of the masses.
Mahama, 35, has established a public cultural center in his hometown in Ghana’s northern region to provide socioeconomic opportunities for employment and education, as well as to nurture creative talents.