Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama, known for his influence on the art world, has successfully turned planes into multipurpose learning facilities for residents, providing free education for children in his father’s village in northern Ghana.
In 2021, Mahama purchased the aircraft with $1 million in sales proceeds to add to his Red Clay Studio, a multi-acre site that doubles as an open education center.
During the school year, crowds of students like Abdul-Latif Zakaria, a 16-year-old student at the school, attend free lectures on flight physics, computer science, fundamental engineering and more.
“It’s not so much about inspiring artists as it is about creating thinkers,” Mahama said of the installation he built in his father’s village to give villagers the opportunity to cultivate critical thinking—a skill he believes is necessary for creativity. And personal liberation.
“When children grow up thinking differently from their predecessors, that is a step towards some future change in our society,” he said.
Red Clay includes several warehouse-sized buildings constructed with recycled materials and locally sourced red clay bricks.
It also serves as Mahama’s personal workshop, where he creates works that later sell for thousands if not millions of dollars.
The choice of materials is typical of Mahama, who excelled at transforming unwanted objects such as shoeshine boxes and industrial equipment into monolithic works of contemporary art.
For Zakaria, who has been visiting Red Clay every day since he was a child, the center invites local children to explore topics they would never otherwise explore and helps them gain confidence and learn more about whom they really are.
For his father Danaa, who developed a passion for aviation while working as a caretaker at Red Clay, planes are symbols of a brighter future.
Ibrahim Mahama has always been known for using outdated materials in creative ways to offer fresh solutions.
He turns to garbage, shoe shine boxes, jute sacks, and sowing machines, among other things, into useful products and goods. His artwork has been on display in the international market and is well known throughout the world.