In-Between the World and Dreams

A three-part exhibition at UMMA, the U-M Institute for the Humanities, and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

In-Between The World and Dreams presents an outdoor, public installation at a time when our indoor spaces and opportunity for collective engagement with the arts are limited. 

As part of the U-M Institute for Humanities led project, IH, UMMA, and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History each presents work from artist Ibrahim Mahama, whose use of decommissioned jute sacks as artistic material celebrates the often-invisible labor of Black and brown people behind global exchange and commerce while acknowledging the troubling histories of colonialism and slavery in the Western world.  

At UMMA, Mahama will use hundreds of these jute sacks, hand-stitched together, to cover the entire facade of the Museum’s Frankel Family wing. All of the sacks being used for this exhibition were previously in service in Mahama’s home country of Ghana for the transportation of cocoa beans, charcoal, food, and other commodities. In Ghana, Mahama works collaboratively with his community to complete the extensive sewing of the sacks required in preparation for his projects. For the U-M installations, he incorporates materials from his previous seminal works over the last decade as a retrospective.

Taken together, the materiality of the sacks, the colors and textures, irregular ink markings, the holes, showcases a history of energy, labor, and hard work. At the same time, the project speaks to building new worlds out of failed systems, and constructing futures out of disappointments. 

This is the first large-scale outdoor installation of Mahama’s work in the United States. Previous installations have been featured at the Venice Biennale, Sydney Biennale, and various locations throughout Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Ghana, and Senegal. 

This exhibition is the culmination of an ambitious project led by the Institute for the Humanities. Lead Curator: Amanda Krugliak, Arts Curator U-M Institute for the Humanities, with assistance from Ozi Uduma, Assistant Curator for Global Contemporary Art at UMMA; Laura De Becker, Helmut and Candis Stern Curator of African Art and Interim Chief Curator at UMMA, and; Neil Alan Barclay, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

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Promises of the present can start with ghosts from both the future and the past.

Ibrahim Mahama, artist

A Three-Part Exhibition

"The markings, stitching, and signs of wear on the jute remind us of the many changing hands and endless labor behind international trade—the human toll of capitalism, commodification, and globalization. The fabric itself acts as metaphor for Ghana’s complicated history defined by Dutch colonialism and the Gold Coast slave trade, British rule till 1957, and a future de-railed by military coups post-independence.

Rather than grand gestures, Mahama’s installations are humble acts of endurance. They are covert art take-overs, subverting architecture and disrupting the pristine fascia of our institutional buildings. They hold us accountable for past trespasses."

Amanda Krugliak, Arts Curator UM Institute for the Humanities

Text that reads: From the Curator

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Learn more about Ibrahim Mahama

In-Between the World and Dreams is made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to further the Institute for the Humanities Gallery’s longtime mission in support of art as social practice.

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