Oude Kerk presents: Ibrahim Mahama – Garden of Scars.
In recent years, Ibrahim Mahama has become an internationally respected artist. Specially for the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam’s oldest building, Mahama developed a space-filling installation. This is Mahama’s first solo exhibition in the Netherlands. His work explores a global history of trade routes, migration flows and (post)colonialism.
About the installation
Commissioned by the Oude Kerk, Mahama has been working on a new large-scale site-specific installation for the past two years. Garden of Scars connects the history of the Oude Kerk with an international (historical) context. Scattered through the building are hundreds of sculptures. The sculptures are composed of casts he made from the tombstones in the Oude Kerk and the floors of Fort Elmina (1482) on the coast of Ghana, among others. The fractures, scratches and cracks in the sculptures depict a history of failure, repair, repair.
For me it was very interesting to be able to look at the memory of the space, in relation to the echoes of history, and connection to other spaces.
The 3000m2 floor area of the Oude Kerk is formed by tombstones. They contain many life stories and memories that people identify with to this day. Mahama sees the gravestones in the Oude Kerk as a form of collective memory, and questions the social and political aspects of its formation. He links the family histories of the merchants, captains, mayors buried in the Old Church with traces of the history of the ancient (Dutch) forts along the coast of Ghana. The forts were built from the 15th century on the West African coast by traders from Europe, including the Dutch. Fort Elmina, for instance, initially served the gold trade and later played an important role in the development of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Mahama aims to make this shared history visible and highlights the global networks linked to both places.
About Ibrahim Mahama
Ibrahim Mahama (b. 1987) has become an internationally respected artist. He lives and works between his native Tamale and the Ghanaian capital Accra. He studied painting and sculpture at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. During his university years, he embarked on a series of interventions and activities reflecting on themes of globalisation, labour and the circulation of goods, with works also created thanks to a series of collaborations with Ghanaian citizens. In 2019, he established the Savannah Centre of Contemporary Art in Tamale, which includes workshops for schoolchildren and exhibitions of Ghanaian artists. In 2020, he opened the sprawling Red Clay Studio complex, with exhibition spaces, research facilities and artist residencies. In 2020, he was awarded the Prince Claus Prize for his commitment to improving social conditions and developing culture in his home country Ghana.
This exhibition was made possible thanks to generous contributions from Ammodo and Fund 21.