Non-Orientable Nkansa II, 2017

Basel 2018
White Cube
Mixed media
For Non-Orientable Nkansa II (2017) Ibrahim Mahama produced hundreds of ‘shoemaker boxes’ with several collaborators, one of whom was named Nkansa. These small wooden objects are made from scrap materials found in Accra and Kumasi, Ghana, and used to contain tools for polishing and repairing shoes. Bearing the marks of the trade of ‘shoeshine boys,’ the boxes also function as an improvised drum, when pounded to solicit business. Mahama and his collaborators – migrant workers from rural Ghana – obtained these items through a process of negotiation and exchange. Such transactions form a critical feature of the artist’s practice, as does the particular site of the work’s production, in this case, a former state-run paint factory. The production location lends added resonance, since it is in the political exigencies of space and the evolution of materials from one context to another that the work’s intention resides. Gathered together in a single, monumental unit, the containers are crammed with other re-purposed items such as heels, hammers and needles, all of which are part of Mahama’s ongoing inquiry into the life of materials and their dynamic potential.