Oude Kerk presents Ibrahim Mahama: Garden of Scars from November 5, 2022 to March 19, 2023 at Amsterdam.
Ibrahim Mahama created the enormous installation Garden of Scars especially for Oude Kerk Amsterdam. The work is made up of casts and rubbings of the gravestones at the Oude Kerk as well as the floors and walls of (Dutch) forts along the Ghanaian coast, such as Fort Elmina, one of West Africa’s oldest European structures. Mahama draws together the physical vestiges of history that these buildings have left. The sculptures’ fractures, scratches, and cracks symbolize a history of failure and repair. The work addresses many of the issues that currently dominate our social, cultural, and historical conversation. In sculptures and paintings that are as delicate as they are strong, Mahama reveals a shared heritage.
Ibrahim Mahama (Tamale, 1987) has recently gained international acclaim as an artist. His large-scale works address contemporary concerns such as the cultural and social consequences of global migration, international economic networks, and (post)colonialism. In the Netherlands, this is Mahama’s first solo commission.
Walking through the Garden of Scars is a trip through Ghana’s history as well as the history of the thousands of Amsterdam residents who have been interred in the church over the ages. The 3000 square metre floor area of the Oude Kerk is made up of gravestones. The gravestones in the Oude Kerk are viewed by Mahama as a type of collective memory, and the social and political dimensions of their formation are questioned. He ties the family histories of the Oude Kerk’s merchants, captains, and mayors with the remnants of history in Ghana’s historic forts, where people lived through colonial trade and its effects in Africa.
European traders, particularly the Dutch, built castles and forts along the West African coast beginning in the fourteenth century. Fort Elmina, for example, served the gold trade initially and significantly helped to the development of the transatlantic slave traffic. Mahama wishes to highlight this shared history by displaying the worldwide networks that were and still are linked to both locations. ‘I believe we should also consider the future.’ ‘And art is a tool for that,’ Mahama argues.
About Ibrahim Mahama
Ibrahim Mahama is a Ghanaian who divides his time between Accra and Tamale. Mahama studied painting and sculpting at Kumasi’s Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. During his academic years, he began on a series of interventions and actions that challenged globalization, labor, and the circulation of goods, through works developed in conjunction with Ghanaian individuals. He founded the Savannah Centre of Contemporary Art in Tamale in 2019, which includes programs for kids and exhibitions by Ghanaian artists.
In 2020, he opened the Red Clay Studio complex, which provides exhibition spaces, research facilities and artist residencies. He received the Prince Claus Fund’s 2020 Grand Prize, which is awarded biennially to people who use culture to promote development in their country. Numerous international exhibitions have featured Mahama’s work, including the 2015 and 2019 editions of the Venice Biennale, documenta 14, Athens and Kassel (2017), Biennale of Sydney (2020).
Artistic Director: Mariette Dölle
Curator: Marianna van der Zwaag
In the heart of Amsterdam’s historic district, the Oude Kerk is a national monument and a venue for modern art. Artists are commissioned by Oude Kerk to create monumental new work specifically for the location. The art installations investigate the acoustics of the structure, experiment with perception of space, or illuminate stories from the site’s centuries-long history in novel ways. Recent commissions: Antonio Obá (2022), Susan Philipsz (2021), Aimée Zito Lema (2021), Adrian Villar Rojas (2019). Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller (2018).