Ibrahim Mahama
(Tamale, Ghana, 1987)

Fatima Lelatu, 2014

C print on Dibond; diptych
97,5 x 65 cm, each of two elements
Ed. 2/3 of an edition of 3 + 2 AP
[Photo: Courtesy Ibrahim Mahama and APALAZZOGALLERY]

Focused on the historical, cultural, and socio-political situation in Ghana, the works of Ibrahim Mahama deal with issues related to exploitation at work, immigration, globalization, and the circulation of goods. 

Fatima Lelatu is part of a series of photographic diptychs devoted to Ghanaian women who migrate from their country to seek work.  The artist collected or commissioned the shoeshine boxes made by these women from discarded materials and personalized with small labels. In each diptych, a shot shows a shoebox being held by the creator, while a second shot enlarges the inner part of her forearm, so that the marking located there and corresponding to her name and country of origin is clearly legible. The marking serves to identify the person and her family in case of death. The fabrics visible in the background, albeit reproducing traditional African textiles, are actually low-cost prints made in China and exported to Ghana. These fabrics, just like the signs of the labor visible on the boxes, have the same purpose as the tattoo on the arm: they speak of the exploitation of work and the value of goods, even human ones.

Ibrahim Mahama lives and works in Accra, Kumasi and Tamale. His work has appeared in numerous solo and group shows, as well as in important international exhibitions including: 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020); Stellenbosch Triennale (2020); 6th Lubumbashi Biennale, (2019); Venice Biennale (2015, 2019); Documenta 14 (2017). In March 2019, Ibrahim Mahama opened the artist-run project space Savannah Centre for Contemporary Art (SCCA) in Tamale, Ghana, followed by the opening of Red Clay in nearby Janna Kpeŋŋ in September 2020. Comprising exhibition space, research facilities and an artist-residency hub, both sites represent Mahama’s contribution towards the development and expansion of the contemporary art scene in his home country.