By John Owoo
(In sack clothes)
A stunning installation of sewn cocoa sacks by the Ghanaian public artist Ibrahim Mahama that question the conditions of supply and demand in African markets last week engulfed the National Theatre in Accra.
The installation, which has completely overwhelmed the huge edifice, forms part of Ghana Culture Day, which was held in the same building that Mahama has effectively turned into a kind of protective zone while dispersing diverse messages.
His ambitious art derives its potency from continuous research and unrestrained dedication. Undeniably, his questions do not only require answers – they equally end up posing more questions.
By carefully recycling cocoa sacks that have been reconditioned into charcoal sacks and stitching huge chunks together, he adds texts that include names of markets and market women while adding tiny patches of red paint.
The rough nature of the sacks coupled with the loose hanging; radiate tenacious power as one begins to imagine the time, effort and number of people required to erect this gigantic artwork.
Mahama sporadically embellishes the installation by inserting foreign made wax prints and other colourful materials thereby providing another angle of analysis of the large-scale movement of goods and services.
Wherever his installations are mounted, they constantly take on the mantle of a socio political investigation into the foundation of materials while revealing the transitional nature of ownership of these sacks as they move from one person to the other.
Undeniably, he has succeeded in drawing attention to the global transportation of goods across borders through immersive installations, which are found in art spaces and market places in several cities and towns in Africa and Europe.