Ibrahim Mahama’s huge installation at London’s Barbican Centre

The Ghanaian artist will cover the Brutalist facades overlooking Lakeside Terrace with 2,000 square meters of purple fabric.    

Purple Hibiscus is the site-specific work Ibrahim Mahama has designed for the Barbican Centre in London, which will be on view from April 10 to August 18, 2024. 

The Ghanaian artist is known for his work on the transformation of materials and their use in contact with buildings, an encounter between art and architecture that has seen him recently involved in the Venice and Sharjah Biennials, as well as being remembered for “wrapping” the Bastioni di Porta Venezia in Milan back in 2019. 

For the creation of this work, Mahama went in search of 100 batakaris, traditional Ghanaian clothes, obtained through a series of barters in northern Ghana. Once the clothes, scarred by wear and tear, were collected, he involved hundreds of artisans from Tamale, his hometown, where a huge cloth was hand-sewn using the space of the Alui Mahama Sports Stadium. 

“It’s like doing plastic surgery, but this time it requires a soul that dwells within the body, that is immaterial to build on the physical material,” explains the artist speaking about the creative process of the work, which will be made as part of the exhibition Unravel: The Power & Politics of Textiles in Art, which can be visited as early as Feb. 13. 

Following Ranjani Shettar’s installation inside the Conservatory, on view through March, Purple Hibiscus represents a new opportunity to enhance the spaces of London’s famous 1980s Brutalist complex with a new series of collaborations that “invites contemporary artists to create works in response to its unique public spaces.”

Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textiles in Art. Barbican Art Gallery, London, UK. Solange Pessoa, Hammock (part of 4 Hammocks), 1999-2003 Courtesy of Rubell Museum, Miami and Washington DC. Photo: Chi Lam

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