Jute, Entangled Labour, and Global Capital | esse arts + opinions

Jute, Entangled Labour, and Global Capital

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In his ongoing Occupations series (2012–), Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama reconfigures old jute sacks, used to transport cocoa and coal in Ghana, into vast stitched-together coverings or tent-like structures, with which he envelops architectural sites worldwide. This text unpacks Mahama’s installations by focusing on his use of jute fabric and traces the various processes of labour present in the material’s production and circulation and, in turn, the artwork as a whole. This story of jute, which is also one of entangled labour and global capital, proves that Mahama’s artworks are the product of working bodies. It also addresses critical questions related to how global industrialized labour is made invisible under capitalist markets.

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