MGLC, The International Center of Graphic Arts, is pleased to announce the appointment of a renowned artist Ibrahim Mahama as Artistic Director of the 35th Ljubljana Biennale of Graphic Arts (2023).
The recipient of numerous honors including the 2020 Prince Claus Award for outstanding achievements in the field of culture and development, Mahama lives and works in the cities of Accra, Kumasi and Tamale in Northern Ghana, where he was born.
Mahama’s artistic practice has been celebrated around the globe in international exhibitions such as NIRI22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020); tomorrow, there will be more of us, Stellenbosch Triennale (2020); inaugural Ghana pavilion, 58th Venice Biennale, Venice (2019); Documenta 14, Athens and Kassel (2017); and All the World’s Futures56th Venice Biennale, Venice (2015).
As Azu Nwagbogu observed in a recent edition of ArtReview, Mahama’s cultural practice includes founding, funding, building and nourishing “museums of the future: alive, metabolic, nimble and experimental” (May 18, 2022).
Among the remarkable institutions Mahama has founded are Savannah Center for Contemporary Art (SCCA Tamale), an artist-run cultural repository, exhibition-research hub, and artist residency. Red Clay, in nearby Janna Kpeŋŋ is a vast studio complex where Mahama converted old aeroplanes into classrooms for children. Nkrumah Volin is a renovated silo in Tamale.
In announcing Mahama’s appointment, Nevenka Šivavec, Artistic Director and CEO of MGLC, noted the important ties between Ghana and former Yugoslavia from the 1950s to 1966, when Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, was overthrown in a military coup d’état. Especially important was the shared role of Ghana and Yugoslavia as founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) together with Egypt, India and Indonesia in 1961.
Šivavec noted that Mahama has long been interested in post-independence infrastructure in Ghana, in buildings that were an expression of Nkrumah’s commitment to make self-sufficient Ghana, but which would later be abandoned. The impact of architects from former Yugoslavia on institutional buildings in Ghana, such as the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, was particularly significant during this period. It coincided with the founding of the Ljubljana Biennale in 1955, amid the Cold War, and its desire to transcend national and ideological boundaries.
For Ibrahim Mahama, assuming the role of Artistic Director of the Ljubljana Biennale represents both a challenge, and an opportunity. Not only to explore complex moments of exchange and aspiration but also to reconnect lost moments, or voids, that have appeared in the shared history of Ghana and former Yugoslavia over the passage of time. “I look forward,” he remarked, “to re-establishing some of these connections within the context of the 35th Ljubljana Biennale.
35th Ljubljana Biennale (2023)
The Ljubljana Biennale of Graphic Arts is today a vibrant, constantly changing platform for artistic creation and critical analysis of societal events. It is characterized by the democratization of art and culture and, at the same time, elusive, overlapping forms of knowledge, experience, and practice.
The 35th edition of the Ljubljana Biennale, under artistic director Ibrahim Mahama, will be created in cooperation with a number of international partners (to be announced) and national partners inlcuding Cukrarna Gallery, a recently renovated sugar rafinery from 1828 that has served as a venue for both exhibiting and performing contemporary art since September 2021.