Ibrahim Mahama Transforms Barbican’s Lakeside Terrace with New Public Commission

Ibrahim Mahama

The Barbican has unveiled its latest project, a monumental public commission by Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama. This marks the acclaimed artist’s first large-scale UK public commission. The transformation of the Barbican’s Lakeside Terrace, a central feature of the iconic Brutalist complex, is set to intrigue visitors with its striking presence.

Ibrahim Mahama’s site-specific artwork, ‘Purple Hibiscus, ‘is a unique work spanning approximately 2000 square meters. It is a bespoke woven cloth that dramatically envelops the Barbican’s concrete exterior. The vibrant pink and purple fabric, handwoven and sewn by hundreds of craftspeople from Tamale, Ghana, is a nod to Mahama’s commitment to engaging with local communities and economies.

Adding a layer of cultural richness to the artwork is approximately 130 ‘batakaris’—traditional robes worn by Northern Ghanaian royals and ordinary people—collected by Mahama from communities across Northern Ghana. These intricately embroidered textiles, steeped in history and tradition, serve as a poignant reminder of the interconnectedness of humanity, lending a profound depth to the installation.

“Mahama’s monumental commission offers a powerful reflection on the relationship between craftsmanship and grandeur,” said Shanay Jhaveri, Head of Visual Arts at the Barbican. Through ‘Purple Hibiscus,’ he invites audiences to contemplate themes of community, memory, and solidarity while celebrating the remarkable capabilities of the human hand.”

The ‘Purple Hibiscus Commission is an excellent example of the Barbican’s ongoing commitment to showcasing the best of contemporary art and delivering diverse international programming. This prestigious addition to the Barbican’s public spaces further cements the centre’s reputation as a leading commissioner of new artistic work.

Visitors to the Barbican can experience “Purple Hibiscus” as part of the Unravel: The Power & Politics of Textiles in Art exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery until May 26, 2024. The commission has been made possible through the generous support of Tia Collection, Associate Sponsor Culture Mile BID, The Ampersand Foundation, and The African Arts Trust.

“I am delighted to present ‘Purple Hibiscus’ at the Barbican’s Lakeside Terrace,” said Ibrahim Mahama. “This commission represents a convergence of cultures, traditions, and artistic visions, serving as a testament to the enduring power of collaborative creativity.”

The installation will be displayed at the Barbican Lakeside Terrace from April 10 to August 18, 2024, inviting audiences to engage with art in a transformative urban landscape.

Ibrahim Mahama is a prominent contemporary artist from Africa. He is celebrated for his innovative approach to art and deep engagement with social and economic issues. Born in 1987 in Tamale, Ghana, Mahama’s artistic journey began with a profound exploration of his surroundings, driven by a desire to address the complexities of everyday life.

Mahama’s artistic practice is interdisciplinary, encompassing installation, sculpture, photography, and performance. His work often revolves around themes of labour, migration, globalisation, and the human condition, offering poignant reflections on the socio-political landscape of contemporary Africa.

A defining feature of Mahama’s practice is his use of found materials, particularly jute sacks, symbolising trade, commerce, and labour in Ghana and beyond. Through his large-scale installations and interventions, Mahama transforms these everyday objects into powerful statements, inviting viewers to reconsider their significance and narratives.

Beyond his artistic endeavours, Mahama is deeply committed to community engagement and social change. He founded the Red Clay Studio and Savannah Centre for Contemporary Art in Tamale, providing vital platforms for artistic expression and education in his hometown.

Mahama’s work has garnered international acclaim and has been exhibited in prestigious venues and events worldwide, from the Venice Biennale to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. His contributions to contemporary art have earned him numerous accolades, including the inaugural Sam Gilliam Award from the Dia Art Foundation.

As a leading figure in the global art scene, Ibrahim Mahama continues challenging conventions, provoking thought, and inspiring audiences with his thought-provoking and socially engaged art. Through his creative vision and unwavering dedication to his craft, Mahama exemplifies the transformative power of art to effect change and foster dialogue across borders and cultures.

Ibrahim Mahama: Purple Hibiscus Barbican Lakeside Terrace April 10 – August 18 2024

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