Ibrahim Mahama Explores Ghana-Yugoslavia Connections at Ljubljana Biennale

Last year Ghanaian author and artist Ibrahim Mahama was announced as Artistic Director of the thirty-fifth iteration of the Ljubljana Biennale of Graphic Arts. The event that opens in Slovenia on the 21 of September, titled ” From the void came gifts of the cosmos,” will investigate the strong friendships, connections, and “histories of resistance” between post-independence Ghana and the former Yugoslavia. Artists from across Europe and Africa will present new and site-specific commissions alongside historical graphic work from the Biennale archives. Additionally, a series of public programs will center on the notion of agyina, or council, embraced by the Akan, Ghana’s biggest ethnic group.

The close relationship between post-independence Ghana and the former Yugoslavia originated from shared ideological values, non-alignment principles, and the pursuit of national sovereignty. Ghana’s first President, Kwame Nkrumah, and Yugoslavia’s leader, Josip Broz Tito, developed a personal friendship, fostering diplomatic ties and mutual respect for each other’s efforts in promoting self-determination and resistance against imperialism. Both countries embraced the ideology of non-alignment during the Cold War, seeking to remain neutral and independent from the influence of major power blocs. This common ground led to cultural and educational exchanges, as well as support for liberation movements, showcasing a strong bond between the two nations during an era of significant global transformation.

A statement by Mahama reads, “The exhibition will be presented in multiple forms, historical, contemporary, pedagogical—so we ask—how do we use historical and other forms to establish new dialogues. One of the most important decisions that we have made in the exhibition process so far, was to open it up to students. At the outset of our research process,” he continued, “we embarked on a marathon of school visits in Slovenia, which was an incredible experience. It was from that some very interesting proposals were born, and the curatorial team selected a number of students whose work will to be presented within the exhibition context, as artists.”