Abdur Rahman Muhammad’s solo debut explores migration through vivid oil paintings

Abdur Rahman Muhammad unveils “The Allegory of a Seeker” at ADA contemporary art gallery in Accra in a striking debut solo exhibition, per wallpaper.com. This evocative collection of oil on canvas paintings grapples with the intricate theme of migration, drawing on the lived experiences of those around the Ghanaian artist and narratives from YouTube interviews.

A centrepiece of the collection, “Out and At Em” (2024), depicts an individual seated on a couch, contemplating a journey. A “Ghana Must Go” bag—a symbol of migration—rests before them. Despite the subject’s obscured face, their body language conveys a moment of introspection, reflecting on the impending decision. Muhammad explains, “I was thinking about how we need to get proactive about whatever we need to do but also the need to reflect whether or not the direction we are taking might be the right one.”

The “Ghana Must Go” bag, a colourful travel bag historically tied to the mass expulsion of Ghanaians from Nigeria in 1983, serves as a central motif in Muhammad’s work. This momentous event saw migrants using these bags to carry their belongings, embedding them in the collective memory and migration discourse. Muhammad reinvents this symbol in his paintings, portraying the bags in vibrant hues, including dark orange, to challenge and reframe their traditionally negative connotations.

Muhammad’s journey to art was unconventional; he transitioned from a career in the shipping industry in the late 2010s to pursue his lifelong passion for the arts. His work, often commenting on social issues, has gained international attention, featuring in exhibitions at UTA Artist Space in Los Angeles, Gallery 1957 in Accra, Pearl Lam Gallery in Hong Kong, and Phillips auction house in London. Represented by Artemartis, a Ghanaian art collective and agency, Muhammad continues to push boundaries and provoke thought with his poignant creations.

“I hope it impacts how people think,” Muhammad reflects on his work. “Even if it’s able to impact just one life, I believe it could spiral into something greater.”

Featured image courtesy of the artist and ADA contemporary art gallery, Accra, Ghana


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