Hundreds of meters above the village of Jenakpeng in northern Ghana, a small drone locked its sights on six airplanes parked in the middle of a verdant field miles away from the nearest runway.

The drone’s 16-year-old pilot, Jenakpeng native Abdul-Latif Zakaria, stood with his father Danaa in the shadow 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 worth of sales to add to his Red Clay Studio, a multi-acre compound that functions as an open-door, education hub. During the school year, crowds of students like Zakaria attend lectures on the physics of flight, computer science, basic engineering and more – free of charge.

Education takes flight under Ghanaian artist’s repurposed planes, in Tamale
An aerial view shows six repurposed aircrafts parked at Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama’s studio facility, a multi-acre compound that functions as an open-door education hub, in Tamale, Ghana July 15, 2022. REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko
“It’s not so much about inspiring artists, but producing thinkers,” Mahama said of the facility, which he built in his father’s village to give residents the chance to nurture critical thinking – a skill he believes necessary for creative and personal liberation.



“If children grow up to think differently from their predecessors, that’s a step towards a certain kind of imminent change for our society,” he said.

Education takes flight under Ghanaian artist’s repurposed planes, in Tamale
Danaa Zakaria, 48, studio caretaker, takes visitors on a tour at the studio facility of Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama, 35, in Tamale, Ghana, July 15, 2022. REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko
Red Clay contains several warehouse-sized buildings made from recycled materials and locally-sourced red clay bricks.

It also doubles as Mahama’s personal workshop where he produces works that go on to sell for thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

The material choices are typical of Mahama, who made a name for himself repurposing unwanted objects like shoeshine boxes and industrial equipment into monolithic works of contemporary art.

Danaa Zakaria, 48, studio caretaker, takes visitors on a tour at the studio facility of Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama, 35, in Tamale, Ghana, July 15, 2022. REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko


Education takes flight under Ghanaian artist’s repurposed planes, in Tamale
A family touring the Red Clay studio facility of Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama, 35, pose for a photograph by an airplane, in Tamale, Ghana, July 15, 2022. REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko
For Zakaria, who has visited Red Clay daily since he was a child, the centre invites local children to explore topics otherwise closed to them, helping them build confidence and learn more about who they really are.

To his father Danaa, who has developed a passion for aviation while working as Red Clay’s caretaker, the planes are symbols of a brighter future.

A family touring the Red Clay studio facility of Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama, 35, pose for a photograph by an airplane, in Tamale, Ghana, July 15, 2022. REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko



Abdul-Latif Zakaria, 16, a student and studio volunteer, poses for a photograph as he spends his day at the studio of Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama, 35, in Tamale, Ghana, July 15, 2022. REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko
“Before [the planes] arrived, I thought aircraft were small, like a bird,” he said, smiling. “It is a future generation that we are sowing here… [and] when you sow good seed, InshAllah (if Allah wills it), tomorrow they will germinate.”

Danaa Zakaria, 48, studio caretaker, takes visitors on a tour at the studio facility of Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama, 35, in Tamale, Ghana, July 15, 2022. REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko



Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama, 35, inspects an aircraft propeller engine at his studio facility in Tamale, Ghana, July 15, 2022. REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko



Source: Reuters – Reporting by Francis Kokoroko; Writing by Cooper Invee

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