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Sarah Ladipo Manyika.

Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama has named his exhibition in Italy after Sarah Ladipo Manyika’s first novel, In Dependence, published in 2008. Mahama’s exhibition, held in Apalazzo Gallery, Brescia, is an assemblage of sculpture and boxes which focus on material history “attests to the daily labour of the dispossessed rural workers who migrate to Accra, and the role they play within the local economy.” A feature in Frieze points out its connection to Manyika’s work:

But, by calling his exhibition ‘In Dependence’ (after the title of a 2008 book by Nigerian novelist Sarah Ladipo Manyika), Mahama also reflects on his own position as an artist relying on anonymous, collective work to produce a high-end commodity.

As at November of last year, In Dependence, notes a profile in The New York Times, has sold more than 1.7 million copies in Nigeria, chiefly due to its inclusion in examination reading lists in the country and the piracy-defeating tactics of its publisher Cassava Republic.

Image from NcSarena.

Here is a description of the novel from Amazon:

It is the early-sixties when a young Tayo Ajayi sails to England from Nigeria to take up a scholarship at Oxford University. In this city of dreaming spires, he finds himself among a generation high on visions of a new and better world. The whole world seems ablaze with change: independence at home, the Civil Rights movement and the first tremors of cultural and sexual revolutions. It is then that Tayo meets Vanessa Richardson, the beautiful daughter of an ex-colonial officer. “In Dependence” is Tayo and Vanessa’s story of a brave but bittersweet love affair. It is the story of two people struggling to find themselves and each other a story of passion and idealism, courage and betrayal, and the universal desire to fall, madly, deeply, in love.

Manyika, who is Books Editor at OZY, currently has her acclaimed second novel, Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun, on the shortlist of the 2018 California Book Awards, in the fiction category.

Ibrahim Mahama. Image from Mefiri Ghana.

Ibrahim Mahama’s In Dependence exhibition. Image from Frieze.

The Frieze feature explains the concepts employed by Ibrahim Mahama:

Assemblage is the act of bringing together a group of things or people; or, as Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari describe it in their book A Thousand Plateaus (1980), the social sphere’s ever-changing patchwork of relations and material conditions. The Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama’s work engages with all three definitions. His Non-Orientable Nkansa II (2017) – a towering sculpture installed in Apalazzo Gallery’s lavish, vaulted salon – is made of hundreds of shoe-shining boxes assembled with leftover materials and customized with small stickers, collages and name tags. The artist collected the boxes in Ghana, either by exchanging new for used ones or by commissioning them from a network of ‘collaborators’, to use his definition. The sculpture’s title references one of them, Nkansa, and his ‘non-orientable’ attitude: his antagonism towards investing time and resources in the production of an art object that is apparently devoid of function and meaning. By focusing on the material history of the boxes, Mahama creates a monumental structure that attests to the daily labour of the dispossessed rural workers who migrate to Accra, and the role they play within the local economy.

Ibrahim Mahama’s In Dependence exhibition. Image from Frieze.

Read more about the In Dependence exhibition HERE.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, an academic, and Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review ("Mulumba," 2016), Transition ("A Tenderer Blessing," 2015), and in an anthology of the Gerald Kraak Award for which he was shortlisted ("You Sing of a Longing," 2017). His work has further been shortlisted for the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship in 2016 and a Pushcart Prize in 2015. He attended the 2018 Miles Morland Foundation Creative Writing Workshop. He is the curator of the ART NAIJA SERIES, a sequence of themed e-anthologies of writing and visual art exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. The first, ENTER NAIJA: THE BOOK OF PLACES (October, 2016), focuses on cities in Nigeria. The second, WORK NAIJA: THE BOOK OF VOCATIONS (June, 2017), focuses on professions in Nigeria. He studied History and Literature at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is currently completing a postgraduate programme in African Studies and Pop Culture, and teaches English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, and is working on a novel. He is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. When bored, he just Googles Rihanna.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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