Ibrahim Mahama

No Friend but the Mountains 2012-20

By Biennale of Sydney

22nd Biennale of Sydney: NIRIN

No friend but the mountains 2012-20 Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

About the artist

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

Ibrahim Mahama uses the transformation of materials to explore themes of commodity, migration, globalisation and economic exchange. Often made in collaboration with others, his large-scale installations employ materials gathered from urban environments, such as remnants of wood, or jute sacks which are stitched together and draped over architectural structures. 

No friend but the mountains 2012-20 Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

"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




Mahama’s interest in material, process and audience first led him to focus on jute sacks that are synonymous with the trade markets of Ghana where he lives and works. Fabricated in South East Asia, the sacks are imported by the Ghana Cocoa Boards to transport cocoa beans and eventually end up as multi-functional objects, used for the transportation of food, charcoal and other commodities.

No friend but the mountains 2012-20 Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

No Friend but the Mountains 2012-20

For the 22nd Biennale of Sydney, artist Ibrahim Mahama presents multiple works including a large scale installation inside the Turbine Hall at Cockatoo Island, Sydney.

No friend but the mountains 2012-20 No friend but the mountains 2012-20 (2020) by Ibrahim MahamaBiennale of Sydney

Titled No Friend but the Mountains 2012-20, this immersive installation dresses the entirety of the interior 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 stir the histories of labour and incarceration that lay dormant on Cockatoo 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.

This installation differs from other projects in which the artist blankets the exterior architecture of public buildings. In covering the interior of the Turbine Hall, Mahama creates a space for us to walk inside and to consider our own relationship to the layered histories on display.

Once inside, we are consumed with the smell, texture, and sensation of the jute, inviting new ways of seeing and occupying this site, caked as it is in layers of divergent and complex histories

Navigate through the Turbine Hall on Cockatoo Island and explore the installation in 360.

No friend but the mountains 2012-20 Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

Keep exploring...

View Ibrahim Mahama's other installation A Grain of Wheat at Artspace, learn three ways to repurpose coffee grounds in this NIRIN at Home activity or learn more with the Ibrahim Mahama: Education Kit.

Credits: Story

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

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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