Ibrahim Mahama

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When I first did a talk at KNUST University in Kumasi, I was upset to hear that many of the Arts Faculty’s brightest and most promising students had to forsake their paths, because of a lack of opportunity and access. As a response, I set up the Artists-in-Residence programme.

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The first Artist-in-Residence has been Ibrahim, who as a result of connections set up was featured in the exhibition Pangaea at the Saatchi Gallery, had a residency at Gasworks in London, made his first sales to collectors, both African and European, and has many other opportunities coming his way.

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The idea is not merely to inject artists into the ‘Western art system’ or to mirror it in any way, but to create sustainability and value; to have us be able to create the narratives of our work on our own terms and within our own paradigms, with as much support, exchange and collaboration as possible.

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Right now, the only resources I have are my abilities, experience, contacts, and my power of persuasion. I am working simultaneously as writer, director, editor, producer, curator, and fundraiser, but as ANO grows in size and scope, there will soon be physical space in the mountains, where writers, artists, scholars, etc., can come together, both from within Africa and without, to create and exchange.

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The Ghana my parents speak of was a place of intense intellectual and cultural activity and exchange, at its very highest levels. They carry within them centuries of culture, so naturally, that it seems embodied. This gives them a depth and rootedness I can only dream of. In the gap between my parents’ generation and my own, both here and in the Diaspora, something has gone missing, as a result perhaps of political and economic turmoil, or cultural distancing and displacement.

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The aim is not to recreate the intellectual and cultural atmosphere of the past, but to build on it, and incorporate the myriad, polyrhythmic influences we have in our present. Ibrahim is an artist of great talent, but that is not what marks him out. I have been amazed again and again by the level of talent here. What differentiates him, is his absolute focus, commitment, and engagement, and I hope that ANO becomes a place where of all of us, operating on our highest levels, can contribute to the evolving narratives of the country and continent.