Ghanaian Artist Ibrahim Mahama to Direct the Ljubljana Biennale Bridging Ghana and Yugoslavia

Ibrahim Mahama Photo © White Cube George Darrell

The Ljubljana Biennale of Graphic Arts is set to return to the Slovenian capital for its 35th edition this year, led by renowned Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama. With the theme “From the void came the gifts of the cosmos,” this grand art event will be spread across eight venues in Ljubljana, spanning from September 15, 2023, to January 14, 2024.

Mahama, celebrated for his signature technique of cloaking entire buildings in jute cocoa sacks, intends to steer this edition of the Biennale in a way that delves into the rich historical ties between post-independence Ghana and former Yugoslavia. This relationship is rooted deeply in the visions of pan-African theorist and Ghana’s first republic president, Kwame Nkrumah, who, alongside Yugoslavia’s leader, Josip Broz Tito, fostered an era marked by shared ideological values, non-alignment principles, and national sovereignty quests.

This edition of the Biennale will not only focus on historical connections but also aims to establish new dialogues. As Mahama insightfully mentions, the exhibition will explore “how we use historical and other forms to establish new dialogues.” Under his guidance, the Biennale will serve as a confluence for over 30 artists, presenting a melange of printmaking and contemporary art that seeks to transcend borders.

image 69
Nabil Djedouani, From the earth to the moonBoubaker Adjali (1977). Restored film still. Courtesy the artist.

Among the anticipated installations is Sonia Kacem’s “Hotel Hodnik (2023)”, which shines a spotlight on the history of the former hotel that is now the International Centre of Graphic Arts. Additionally, an exploration by Janek Simon and Max Cegielski dives into the works of Polish sculptor Alina Slesinska, who previously crafted a monument dedicated to Kwame Nkrumah in the 1960s.

image 70
Sonia Kacem, Presque saturé II (2023). Courtesy the artist and VFO, Zurich. Photo: Thomi Wolfensberger, Zürich.

Film commissions by Hamedine Kane and Nolan Oswald Dennis explore the legacies of USSR-trained filmmakers in Senegal and Tanzania. Concurrently, Nabil Djedouani brings to light the covert narratives of Algerian anti-colonial resistance figures in his artwork, “There is no End (2023).” A special highlight awaits attendees in the form of a hand-woven rug by Estonian artist Jaanus Samma, which draws inspiration from Estonian wedding gift traditions.

A noteworthy aspect of Mahama’s direction is his decision to integrate student participation. Recognizing the importance of fresh perspectives, he and his team engaged in extensive school visits across Slovenia, eventually selecting several students to feature their artworks in the Biennale’s grand showcase.

This melding of historical contexts, contemporary art, and youthful vigor promises an enlightening and immersive experience for all visitors. The Ljubljana Biennale stands as a testament to the enduring bonds between Ghana and Yugoslavia and the power of art to bridge histories and cultures.

Solverwp- WordPress Theme and Plugin