After attaining independence in 1957, Ghana’s train system built under British colonial rule was due for expansion, that would see the economy running strong on its own feet. But a series of military coups that followed cut short the expectations of growth and progress in Ghana.
Thirty-two-year-old Ibrahim Mahama picked up the forgotten pieces of what remained of the train system abandoned for decades and built a ‘Parliament Of Ghosts’ a representation of the potential of a country that was yet to manifest itself but never came to be at the Whitworth gallery in Manchester.
Inside the parliament of Ghosts are 120 repurposed seats salvaged from hundreds of hard, scratched second-class train seats that were abandoned after their clapped-out carriages were scrapped several years ago, and several dozen old lockers once used by train staff reworked into a four-sided imitation of Ghana’s parliament chamber.
Why parliament of Ghost for such a masterpiece? According to Ibrahim, the seats and other objects embody it all, symbolising the whole story, the memories of everything they have witnessed and been through, while the ghosts are the opportunities his home country failed to grasp over the years.
“Parliament of Ghosts doesn’t just represent the flaws of Ghana’s government but is meant to highlight the failures of parliaments around the world – not least, at a time of Brexit deadlock, the UK’s. Parliament of Ghosts is a question of what potential lies within the failures of the world.
“The cabinets almost become these living organisms that witness the entire life cycles of generations upon generations of how a certain system has somehow been maintained – but at the same time the flaws of it. I like to think they are living things that somehow can speak in a language that the workers themselves cannot,” Mahama says.
Commissioned by the Manchester International Festival, Parliament of Ghosts will be Ibrahim’s first major UK exhibition where people are invited to go and use his parliament chamber to host their own debates, performances and screenings. Ibrahim recently used decaying food to replace the flags outside the United Nations’ headquarters at the Rockerfeller Center in New York as a reminder of the global condition in a way.