Biennale of Sydney

Ibrahim Mahama

Ibrahim Mahama, No friend but the mountains 2012-2020, 2020. Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), Cockatoo Island. Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with generous support from Anonymous, and assistance from White Cube. Courtesy the artist; Apalazzo Gallery, Brescia and White Cube, London / Hong Kong. Photograph: Zan Wimberley.
Ibrahim Mahama, No friend but the mountains 2012-20, 2020. Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), Cockatoo Island. Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with generous support from Anonymous, and assistance from White Cube. Courtesy the artist; Apalazzo Gallery, Brescia and White Cube, London / Hong Kong. Photograph: Zan Wimberley.
Ibrahim Mahama, No friend but the mountains 2012-2020, 2020. Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), Cockatoo Island. Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with generous support from Anonymous, and assistance from White Cube. Courtesy the artist; Apalazzo Gallery, Brescia and White Cube, London / Hong Kong. Photograph: Zan Wimberley.
Ibrahim Mahama, A Grain of Wheat, 2015-18. Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), Artspace. Presented at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney with generous support from Andrew Cameron AM and Cathy Cameron; Anonymous; and assistance from White Cube. Courtesy the artist and White Cube, London / Hong Kong. Photograph: Zan Wimberley.

Ibrahim Mahama

Born 1987 in Tamale, Ghana
Lives and works in Tamale, Accra and Kumasi, Ghana


Freedom and Justice for all including the so called ‘non-life’. For it is within these moments that we shift perceptions and expand upon our values of respect. Let’s aim to truly democratise form and the many hands they emerge from.”

Ibrahim Mahama’s largescale, immersive installation No friend but the mountains 2012-20, 2020 dresses the entirety of the interior Turbine Hall at Cockatoo Island with jute sacks. A crowded patchwork of rich, brown colour and rough and smooth planes, together their marked surfaces mime the gritty materiality and architecture of the former shipyard and penal colony, to reference and stir the histories of labour and incarceration that lay dormant on the island. This work continues Mahama’s material investigation into labour, economic history and production. Taking an almost forensic approach, the artist sees the surfaces of these materials as holding and bearing the physical markers, smells and traces of the networks and industries they previously moved through. No friend but the mountains 2012-20 privileges the private lives of ordinary materials, and their ability to communicate urgent and complex histories to us, expanding our knowing of and being within an interconnected and inherently entangled world.

A Grain of Wheat presented at Artspace assembles upright original first aid stretchers, many dating from the Second World War, collected from a site near to a Refugee Camp in Athens. Found elements like maps collected from Ghana are collaged within the canvas of the stretchers referencing intersecting histories of human mobility, labour and suffering. Aromatic smoked fish papers sourced from West African smokehouses conjure visceral reactions. Materials carry the residues of past actions, traces of the interconnected networks and industries they were part of and of the human lives touched and effected. The work forms a kind of sensory archive of life, labour, and loss.

Ibrahim Mahama’s work has appeared in numerous international exhibitions including Ghana's first national pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019; the Norval Foundation, Cape Town (2019); Documenta 14, Athens and Kassel (2017); All the World’s Futures, 56th Venice Biennale, Venice (2015).

No friend but the mountains 2012-20, 2020 is commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with generous support from Anonymous, and assistance from White Cube, London / Hong Kong

A Grain of Wheat is presented at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney with generous support from Andrew Cameron AM and Cathy Cameron and Anonymous, and assistance from White Cube, London / Hong Kong

Exhibited at

Exhibited Artwork

Ibrahim Mahama, A Grain of Wheat, 2015-18, mixed media. Presented at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney with generous support from Andrew Cameron AM and Cathy Cameron, and Anonymous, and assistance from White Cube. Courtesy the artist and White Cube, London / Hong Kong

Photograph: Zan Wimberley

Location: Artspace

Ibrahim Mahama, No friend but the mountains 2012-20, 2020, charcoal jute sacks, sacks, metal tags and scrap metal tarpaulin. Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with generous support from Anonymous, and assistance from White Cube. Courtesy the artist; Apalazzo Gallery, Brescia and White Cube, London / Hong Kong

Photograph: Zan Wimberley

Location: Cockatoo Island