Ibrahim Mahama: On Monumental Silences

Extra City Kunsthal, Antwerpen, Belgium
27 Jan 2018 - 04 Mar 2018

Detail of Father De Deken monument, Antwerp. Jean-Marie Hérain. Photo: Ibrahim Mahama.

Detail of Father De Deken monument, Antwerp. Jean-Marie Hérain. Photo: Ibrahim Mahama.


« Does history cease to exist when a memorial is removed from public view and civic sanction—or is that act of removal, a forceful repudiation of the past, itself an act of choice and agency in history? » [1]

What to do with the racist, white supremacist, and colonial monuments that adorn cities predominantly throughout Europe, North America and Australia is an ongoing debate. These types of monuments and memorials are rarely contextualized, still stand in public space and have not been complicated by counter perspectives that would allow for a narrative that is broader, accurate and more adherent to truths about the events and people that the sculptures represent.

On Monumental Silences by Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama and curated by Antonia Alampi is a contribution to this debate, by engaging with the infamous sculpture of Father Constant De Deken realized by Jean-Marie Hérain in Wilrijk in 1904, one of the most violent images still standing in public space in the city of Antwerp and containing in it all the selling points of colonial ideology: a fully dressed Belgian man looking towards the sky with his knee bent over a half-naked Congolese slave in a position of praise.

As part of the process, a human-sized copy in soft clay of this sculpture will be modified, reshaped and re-imagined together with the public during a moderated discussion with historian Omar Ba. Public narratives here will be considered as malleable matter to be acted upon and reshaped towards the production of a counter-monument.

On Monumental Silences will be unveiled on January 27. The project does not only address the past, but disrupts the racist image ontology, the regime of visuality that lives on its legacy. It brings to the fore the need to re-challenge the narratives monuments bear, but also the question of how to actively intervene, by considering which subjects continue to be denied a voice, a place in history and a just representation, and which stories are not being told. While the shot is largely and overwhelmingly visible, why can we still not find the counter-shot?

Ibrahim Mahama (b. 1987) is an artist who lives and works in Tamale, Ghana. His work has been included in a number of group shows including Silence Between The Lines in Ahenema Kokobeng, Kumasi; the Gown must Go To Town, Accra; the 56th Venice Biennale, All The Words Futures; documenta14, Learning from Athens, among many others.


In conjunction with the opening, Extra City Kunsthal will host a public program with talks by Bambi Ceuppens (The Royal Museum for Central Africa), Sara Weyns (Middleheim Museum), presentations by movements such as Decolonize Belgium and Hand in Hand Against Racism, and a conversation between Ibrahim Mahama and Antonia Alampi.

Silent Recreations: 16 January , 4–9pm, a performative action moderated by historian Omar Ba

Opening & Public Program:  27 January , 4pm -midnight

In February Rob Jacobs and Anne Reijniers will be presenting a screening program addressing this subject.


On Monumental Silences marks the first act in a series of interventions as part of a three-year collaboration between Extra City Kuntshal and the Middelheim Museum, in which the function of monuments today is critically re-assessed.

This project is also made possible thanks to the generous support of APALAZZOGALLERY, Brescia. We thank AIR Antwerpen for their cooperation.


Extra City Kunsthal, Antwerpen
Eikelstraat 31
2600 Antwerpen


[1] Paul Daley, « Statues are not history. Here are six in Australia that need rethinking, » The Guardian, August 24, 2017.