For Earth Day 2018, the National Museum of African Art hopes that Mahama will wrap the exterior and roof of the building Art with a colossal sewn tapestry of used jute sacks. Made in Bangladesh and India, these sacks are initially used to transport cocoa beans as part of the multinational chocolate industry, before being repurposed to transport rice, maize, millet, and charcoal within Ghana and beyond. Each bears the marks of the hands through which it has passed. As Ibrahim has said, these sacks “tell of the hands that lifted them and the products they held as they were carried between ports, warehouses, markets and cities. They tell of the condition of the people who are trapped by those places, and the places themselves.” The reveal how our products, industries, people and land connect. And, enveloping the museum, they will transform the iconic landscape of the National Mall and Washington, D.C., and draw attention to the overlooked material realities of commercial agriculture and the lives of individuals whose everyday opportunities are profoundly affected by the absence of sustainable practices.
In a time of heightened national attention to conflicting values regarding international trade and the freedom of human movement, the museum intends to combine its prominent position as a fifty-year advocate for the voices of Africa’s artists with its prime location on Independence Avenue to call attention to unexpected environment al, economic and human connections.
So for Earth Day this year, we ask that you stay tuned over the next year to learn more about the challenges of this project – from figuring out a scaffolding that can support the jute through hurricane and tornado and still not damage our museum building – a historic preservation site, to seeking international import permits! We are hopeful, and we hope that you are too! To help us make this project possible, please visit here.
Bienale Arte 2015 – Ibrahim Mahama
Karen Milbourne has been a curator at the National Museum of African Art since May 2008. Since joining the museum, she has curated the exhibitions “Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa,” “Artists in Dialogue: António Ole and Aimé Mpane” (2009), and “Artists in Dialogue 2: Sandile Zulu and Henrique Oliveira” (2011). She also served as coordinating curator for the exhibitions “Yinka Shonibare MBE” (2010), “Central Nigeria Unmasked” (2011) and “The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists” (2015). In 2016, Karen opened two exhibitions, both “Senses of Time: Video and Film-Based Works of Africa” and “Emeka Ogboh’s Market Symphony.”
Ibrahim Mahama lives and works in Tamale, Ghana. He earned a BFA and an MFA in Painting and Sculpture from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. In 2012 he began producing Occupations, a series of itinerant installations made in collaboration with migrant communities using industrial materials,specifically jute fibre sacks used to carry a range of commodities. These sacks are introduced into spaces that question the systems of production and that sense of Occupation. Architecture plays the role of both protagonist and Antagonist in these immersive yet very temporal projects. His work has been included in a number of group shows including Pangea I and Pangea II at Saatchi Gallery, London and Silence Between The Lines in Ahenema Kokobeng, Kumasi including the Gown must Go To Town, Accra and the 56 Venice Biennale, All The Words Futures, Ibrahim Mahama and Edson Chagas, Apalazzo Gallery, Brescia, documenta 14, Athens and Kassel, White Cube Gallery, London and Future Generation Art Prize, Kiev and Venice. In his most ambitious work till date ‘EXCHANGE-EXCHANGER’ He questions the place of Modern architecture within two cosmopolitan cities in Ghana with subtle choices of form and Time with his network of collaborators. Failure and crisis are fundamental to his production processes.
The Smithsonian Earthopyimism page
Earth Day 2017
National Museum of African Art Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa (2013-14)