Design Indaba 2020: Q&A With Ibrahim Mahama

WORDS Lindi Brownell Meiring IMAGE courtesy of Ibrahim Mahama

Design Indaba celebrates its 25th year as a festival of creativity, and Ghanaian artist and author Ibrahim Mahama is one of the speakers set to take the stage.

Image credit: George Darrell (White Cube)

Based between Accra, Kumasi and Tamale in Ghana, Ibrahim Mahama is an artist whose work focuses on the history of architecture and materials, and how this relates to labour conditions in modern society.

Below is a snippet from VISI’s interview with Ibrahim. Read the full interview on page 176 in the latest issue (VISI 106).

Your work was featured at Norval Foundation in Cape Town in 2019 in the form of a monumental nine-metre-high installation of jute sacks, a material you often use. What influences your choice of materials?

These materials have been collected over the years from various market spaces in Ghana. They’ve covered buildings across the world and been touched by many hands through the commodities they have transported. I’ve always been interested in the aesthetics of objects and the meaning that comes with them. It was important for me to bring this to the Norval Foundation to establish a dialogue with the South African community and also open the work up.

How does architectural history inform your work and how does this relate to your practice of enveloping buildings in jute sacks?

The basis of my work starts with architecture. I allow the physicality of spaces to inspire the form each piece takes, regardless of the objects involved in the production of the artwork. Meaning is as important as the visual aspect.

Any exciting upcoming projects you’re looking forward to?

There are a couple of projects coming up in 2020, but I’m mostly looking forward to opening up my studio to the public, as well as my next exhibition at the Savannah Centre for Contemporary Art (SCCA) in Tamale, Ghana, curated by Kwasi Ohene-Ayeh.

Follow @ibrahimmahama on Instagram to keep up to date with his latest news. The Design Indaba Festival, where Ibrahim is speaking, runs from 26–28 February 2020. For more information, visit