The jury, headed by Rosalba Branà, director of the Pino Pascali Foundation, Adrienne Drake, director of the Giuliani Foundation for Contemporary Art in Rome, and Nicola Zito, art historian and curator of the Pino Pascali Foundation, have explained their decision as follows:
“Ibrahim Mahama, a young artist from Ghana, has been playing an important role in the international art scene for the past few years. His main focus is on the human condition, on nomadism, on migrations and people’s exploitation.
His art has strong political connotations. Mahama contaminates art language from site specific installations to photography and assemblage, with the intention of making the audience reflect upon the failures of modern society.”
The exhibition will be held in Exchiesetta, an iconic art space in the centre of Polignano a Mare which also hosted the first editions of the Pino Pascali Award from 1969 to 1979. A piece by the artist will be displayed on the street window from where people will be able to admire it 24 hours a day.
Mahama was born in 1987 in Tamale, capital of the northern Ghana region that counts half a million inhabitants and where he currently lives and works. On the 10th of December he will receive the Prince Claus Award 2020 in Amsterdam, a prize given to those artists who have distinguished themselves for their application of culture to social development.
A recurrent element of his artwork is the hessian sack. This is used as a metaphor of a fragile economy, based on cocoa production. The sack,which is stamped, torn and patched up, becomes an amplifier through which Mahama tells the stories of people who work between the harbours, warehouses, markets and the city centres.
The sack becomes stratification of memories, people, objects, places and architectures. It is a symbol of the problems afflicting the African continent and its migration, of the complex dynamics of globalization. Produced in South East Asia, hessian sacks are imported by the Ghana Cocoa Boards to transport cocoa beans, which are considered luxury goods. After being used this way, the sacks are repurposed many times to transport goods such as rice,millet, corn and coal. Mahama purchases them when they have exhausted their life cycle and can no longer be used to transport goods. He then sews them together to create huge tapestries that he uses also to hide monumental and iconic buildings of consumerist society, as he has done in some recent well known installations that have also been displayed in Italy.
“I am interested”, Mahama explains, “in the artistic and political implications of these materials . What happens when you collect different objects from places that tell particular stories and memories and you put them together to form a new object? I am fascinated by how crisis and failure are absorbed by this material while at the same time creating a strong reference to global transactions and the ways in which capitalistic structures work. (...) I hope t