We've all likely sat in the cheap seats at one point in our lives, Ghana's second class rail carriages had everything you'd expect. Plastic, hard-backed seats riddled with etchings and scratches. When the carriages finally went to the train wreckers, an opportunity arose for another type of rec. Reclamation of the seats fell into the hands of Ibrahim Mahama, one of Africa's rising arts stars.
The parliament structure of Ghana looks a lot like that of the UK. A three way debating area is represented by three sides of seats. The main rows on the left and right contain more chairs than the shorter front row. This exact layout has been replicated in the train chairs by Ibrahim in Manchester's Whitworth Gallery. He's already known for reclaiming other people's junk and showing how it can be given meaning and purpose. This display in the North of England takes his message even further away from his home.
Included in the exhibit are also a batch of old train worker lockers. These old cases have been used by grubby and hard working mechanics and engineers. The stains, wear and tear, textures, and no doubt aromas of the lockers really symbolise effort and teamwork. These have been set out along the back of the parliament set-up to represent the official chambers and shelving in the original building.
Ibrahim Mahama hopes that the exhibition will encourage people to take part in their own debates. A civilian parliament chamber might not be a bad idea, especially if an official channel was made available for the outcome of such meetings to reach elected individuals. The 120 seats of the display could all be filled in little time for so many debating issues that permeate Manchester and beyond. Maybe every city should have one of these? It's a celebration of democracy, the rule of law, and the power of the human voice. Running something like a nation is something we all probably think we'd like to do at one time or other, maybe discovering how it works in practice can separate the dreamers from the realists.
It's ironic in a way that the seats find their way back to the UK. It was British colonialism which brought the rail-network to Ghana many years ago. The parliament style wasn't the only thing they adopted, it seems. As democratic process saw the end of British colonialism, when new generations could no-longer justify to themselves the means of empire, establishing the Commonwealth ensured that our roots and heritages are respected as well as sovereign independence. Perhaps Hong Kong would like to join?
For all its benefits, the parliament system has its flaws. This exhibit also wants to put these across. Look at the deadlock in British politics, for example, with poverty hitting people hard and a nationalist main agenda. Perhaps if parliament was extended to cities and civilians then pressing issues would reach the surface more often? It takes a particular skill-set to become an elected member of parliament, as well as the financial backing of a party, business, or union. Is it right that the route to power be so narrow and only fit for people of a certain grooming?
Via the BBC