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Published: 29 October 2021

By Andy Ross

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Lazarus’ by Ibrahim Mahama

An abandoned building in Tamale, Ghana, was the inspiration for work by Ibrahim Mahama.

By 1966 a Brutalist silo, built to store food in the post-independent country, was derelict and had become home to wildlife, including bats. When the artist started to explore the structures, fascinated by the way in which they represented and captured time, he found this ecosystem and decided to alter plans to restore the buildings for a cultural institution in order to protect their new inhabitants. Along the way he started to use both the buildings and the bat colonies in his work. 

In Lazarus, large tarpaulins that have been rescued from a scrapyard hang, draped over metal armatures, from the ceiling. Bat-like, they represent life coming from death for the artist. Nearby, large collages that combine imagery from the abandoned buildings and bats are shown, the strictly formal built elements neat, the animals, organic as they cling to or fly across the works. In another space, loud clattering comes from randomly activated old sewing machines, recalling the days when these machines were used to earn livelihoods. 

As an exploration of time and decay, rebirth, past and present life this is exciting and thought-provoking work.