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Ghanaian Artist Ibrahim Mahama Drapes London’s Barbican Centre with New Art Piece, Purple Hibiscus

Named after Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's 2003 novel, Purple Hibiscus, Mahama's new project with the Barbican Centre embodies the "lifecycles of textiles and what can be learnt from the historical memories embedded within them."

London’s Barbican Centre is now draped in pink and purple fabric which was hand-embroidered with more than 130 batakaris, as part of a new exhibition by Ghanaian artist, Ibrahim Mahama.

Named after Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s 2003 novel, Purple Hibiscus, Mahama’s new project with the Barbican Centre embodies the “lifecycles of textiles and what can be learnt from the historical memories embedded within them.”

Ghanaian Artist Ibrahim Mahama Drapes London's Barbican Centre with New Art Piece, Purple Hibiscus

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To make the piece, which spans about 2000 square metres, Mahama booked the Alui Mahama sports stadium in Tamale, where more than 1,000 weavers and seamstresses had it sewn.

“The period for the commission was quite short—roughly seven months to produce the entire work so we had to get a lot of people in order to get the work. I had to rent the stadium also; the days when they weren’t playing football games, we were playing [art] games!” Mahama told the Art Newspaper.

For the bigger picture, the piece represents geopolitical themes, as it forms part of the exhibition Unravel: The Power of Politics & Textiles in Art, which is being spearheaded by the Barbican Center.

To reflect this geo-political aspect, he said for instance the threads [for the covering] are coming from China. “I was interested in what [the work] represents on a global scale in terms of politics… art has that responsibility and power,.”

But the project has sparked controversy after two collectors, and the artists Yto Barrada and Cian Dayrit, removed works from the show over the Barbican’s decision to cancel a talk on Palestine and the Holocaust, the Art Newspaper reported.

Reacting to that boycott, Mahama says “Art is not about withdrawal but about re-inserting yourself, even as problematic as things are, and then within that go much deeper into the politics.”

His piece will stay on the Barbican building until August.

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