Meet Ibrahim Mahama, the artist shaping the Tamale contemporary art scene

Ibrahim Mahama is an artist on a mission to literally terraform the Tamale contemporary art scene. His is a prolific portfolio which is better experienced rather than spoken about. Nonetheless, we’ll be as concise as can be.

Ibrahim Mahama’s art has exhibited all over the world. This past year he installed a monumental jute sack at Design Indaba 2020.

The Principal Prince Claus Laureate award recepient mainly includes recyclable materials in his pieces. His theme is mostly to employ and evoke visions of sustainability, repurposeness, migration and commodity.

Raised in Tamale, Ghana in 1987, Mahama rotates between Accra, Kumasi and his home in Tamale.

As part of his initiative to drive 20th century African art impressions, Mahama opened the Savannah Centre for Contemporary Art (SCCA) and Red Clay Studios in Tamale. The SCCA centre is a project space that seeks to build a cultural community incubation as well as atelier exhibitions. Red Clay Studios is a vast complex which aims to offer workshops and art screenings for both indigenous and expatriate artists.

When asked by ART AFRICA about his motives and inspiration behind the SCCA-Tamale, this is what he had to say.

“I am very interested in the history of art as well as the history of exhibitions from Ghana and how local spaces have exhibited art and the forms those works have taken over the years. There was a pattern. Most of the early modernists up until the late ‘90s and early 2000s were mostly exhibited in hotel spaces. The national museum was supposed to have been designed and completed but never was. Such institutions were supposed to be for exhibiting and contextualising artists’ works and the kind of work artists were making, and the uncompleted museum affected the way a lot of artists made their work. If you are going to exhibit your work knowing that it will be exhibited in a specific space it limits the material values in your mind and how you go about approaching and producing the work. That was one of the main reasons that motivated me – as an artist – to create a space outside the traditions of exhibition spaces…”

For him art is best born in austere circumstances. This is one of many reasons why he has critically reflected on the use of jute bags and recyclables in his art.

While contributing to community through art, Mahama and his team of fellow artists aim to build a generation of inventors, thinkers and social changers.

Through contact sessions with community youths and the disenfranchised, the SCCA and Red Clay Studio team are already creating that impact.

The SCCA-Tamale is fast becoming an art tourism mecca in Africa. With less than an hour’s flight from Accra to Tamale, the opportunity to immerse yourself in true African and Ghanaian aesthetic is an experience not to be missed.

Charter a flight here and find more details regarding Ibrahim Mahama and the Savannah Centre for Contemporary Art here.

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