Education takes flight under Ghanaian artist’s repurposed planes


TAMALE, Ghana, July 20 (Reuters) – Hundreds of meters above the village of Jenakpeng in northern Ghana, a small drone trained its sights on six planes parked in the middle of a green field miles away from the nearest track.

Drone pilot, 16-year-old Abdul-Latif Zakaria from Jenakpeng, stood with his father Danaa in the shade of a vintage Antonov cropduster, one of six planes that world-renowned artist Ibrahim Mahama has transformed into a community learning space.

In 2021, Mahama bought the planes using proceeds from $1 million in sales to add them to his Red Clay Studio, a multi-acre complex that operates as an open-door education center. During the school year, throngs of students like Zakaria attend free lectures on the physics of flight, computer science, basic engineering and more.

Join now for FREE unlimited access to


“It’s not so much about inspiring artists, it’s about producing thinkers,” Mahama said of the facility, which he built in his father’s village to give residents the opportunity to nurture critical thinking – a skill he believes is necessary for creative and personal liberation.

“If children grow up thinking differently than their predecessors, that’s a step towards some type of imminent change for our society,” he said.

Red Clay contains several warehouse-sized buildings made from recycled materials and locally sourced red clay bricks.

It also serves as Mahama’s personal studio where he produces works that sell for thousands or even millions of dollars.

The material choices are typical of Mahama, which has made a name for itself by turning unwanted objects like shoe shine boxes and industrial equipment into monolithic contemporary works of art.

For Zakaria, who has visited Red Clay daily since he was a child, the center invites local children to explore topics that would otherwise be closed to them, helping them to gain confidence and learn more about who they really are.

For his father Danaa, who developed a passion for aviation while working as Red Clay’s caretaker, airplanes are symbols of a better future.

“Before [the planes] arrived, I thought the planes were small, like a bird,” he says smiling. “It is a future generation that we are sowing here… [and] when you sow good seeds, InshAllah (Allah willing), tomorrow they will sprout.”

Join now for FREE unlimited access to


Reporting by Francis Kokoroko; Written by Cooper Inveen; Editing by Bate Felix and Josie Kao

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


About Author

Comments are closed.