Purple Hibiscus: Ghanaian Artist Ibrahim Mahama’s Monumental Fabric Installation Adorns London’s Barbican Center

London’s Barbican Center is currently hosting an exhibition titled “Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textiles in Art,” featuring a striking commission by Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama. The centerpiece of the exhibition is Mahama’s monumental installation, titled “Purple Hibiscus,” which envelops the façade of the center in 2000 square meters of vibrant pink fabric.

Named after a novel by acclaimed author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Mahama’s “Purple Hibiscus” is a breathtaking display of traditional Ghanaian textiles. The fabric used for the installation is an amalgamation of 100 ‘batakaris,’ which are traditional robes from Northern Ghana. Mahama collaborated closely with hundreds of weavers and sewing collectives from Tamale, a city in Northern Ghana, to bring his vision to life.

The sheer scale of the installation required meticulous planning and execution. Mahama and his team worked tirelessly to ensure that the fabric panels were seamlessly integrated into the architecture of the Barbican Center, creating a striking visual impact that transforms the building’s exterior.

One of the most remarkable aspects of Mahama’s project is the collaborative nature of its creation. By involving local artisans and communities in Tamale, Mahama not only celebrates Ghanaian craftsmanship but also fosters a sense of community and shared ownership of the artwork.

The logistical challenges of producing such a large-scale installation were also significant. On days when matches were not taking place, Mahama rented the Tamale football stadium to spread out the fabric panels on the ground as they were being sewn together. This innovative approach allowed Mahama and his team to maintain control over the quality and integrity of the artwork throughout the production process.

“Purple Hibiscus” serves as a testament to the power of art to transcend boundaries and unite communities. As visitors to the Barbican Center marvel at Mahama’s monumental fabric installation, they are invited to reflect on the rich cultural heritage of Ghana and the enduring legacy of traditional textiles in contemporary art.

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