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Zakaria GRC (2019)

Ibrahim Mahama

C-print on Dibond

Danum Gallery, Library and Museum, Doncaster

Zakaria GRC (2019)

© Ibrahim Mahama. Photo courtesy of White Cube





97.5 × 65 cm


Presented by the Contemporary Art Society, 2022/23

Ownership history:

Purchased from White Cube, London by the Contemporary Art Society, 12 October 2022; presented to Danum Gallery, Library and Museum, Doncaster, 2022/23


Black (presence)
Ibrahim Mahama explores themes of commodity, migration, and globalisation. His work is concerned with the movement of people and goods. The photographs depict the tattooed arms of long-term collaborators Mahama has worked with in Ghana. Some are overlaid on historic colonial maps of key locations, cities, and villages across the country. Others are photographed against decaying leather train seats, salvaged from the Gold Coast Railway. Tattooing family names or locations of birth on forearms is a common practice throughout rural Ghana, due to a lack of basic identification papers like birth certificates or driver licenses.

Mahama produces large-scale installations, often employing materials gathered from urban environments, most recognisably jute sacks. This is intended as a critical reflection on the value system, relationships and acts of production inherent to the historical spaces the materials have inhabited. Since 2019, Mahama has established three cultural centres in Ghana: the SCCA in his hometown of Tamale, Red Clay Studio in nearby Janna Kpeŋŋ, and Nkrumah Volini, a renovated brutalist silo. All are artist-run project spaces, exhibition and education centres, cultural repositories providing artists’ residencies. These institutions are Mahama’s contribution to the development and expansion of the contemporary art scene in Ghana, with
the aim to inspire and empower his local community through engagement with art.

The two photographs that were selected for Danum Gallery, Library and Museum are part of a larger series, with the other 8 works entering the collection of Norwich Castle Museum. Both images show tattooed arms of long-term collaborators Mahama has worked with in Ghana. The tattoos are used instead of official papers to identify their place of birth or family name. This is common practice for itinerant workers, often from northern Ghana. Zakaria GRC shows reference to the Ghanaian rail network, a British colonial venture, evident in the letters GRC (Ghana Rail Company) on a decayed leather seat. Sumaya Abukari Obuasi focuses on a coastal map that includes the capital city, Accra, where many migrant workers end up in search of work.

Mahama's arresting images speak powerfully about the impact of migration and displacement, bringing another perspective to the Danum Library, Museum and Gallery’s collection. The city of Doncaster and Accra share commonalties through the colonial legacy of the railway industry. They both attract migrant workers, for example a large Polish community has recently settled in the city in Doncaster.

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