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David Adjaye to design Ghana's first Venice Art Biennale pavilion

Non Orientable Paradise Lost 1667 by Ibrahim Mahama, an artist participating in Ghana's Venice Art Biennale pavilion (Courtesy White Cube)

Ghana will present its first-ever installation in the Biennale Arte 2019 in Venice later this year, and Ghana’s president Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has commissioned David Adjaye to design the national pavilion.

The 58th international Venice Art Biennale will run from May 11 through November 24, 2019, under the theme of May You Live In Interesting Times. The saying is erroneously credited as “ancient Chinese wisdom” that refers to living through chaotic or tumultuous times—an idea the biennale’s curator, Ralph Rugoff, has linked to fake news, digital manipulation, and the “interesting times” that we now live in.

Ghana’s contribution to the Biennale will be titled Ghana Freedom and will track the evolution of that freedom across three generations, all the way back to the country winning its independence from the United Kingdom in 1957. Six artists will present work influenced by domestic Ghanaian culture and the diaspora beyond its borders, creating a narrative that the pavilion’s curator Nana Oforiatta Ayim describes as “finally moving out of the ‘postcolonial’ moment into one we have yet to envision.”

Photo of soldiers sitting in a desert

John Akomfrah, Mimesis: Seven Ambiguities of Colonial Disenchantment (2018) (Smoking Dogs Films/Courtesy Lisson Gallery)

The pavilion itself will be made up of overlapping concentric exhibition spaces clad in “locally-sourced earth,” in reference to traditional Ghanaian structures.

“Being able to show the diversity and creativity of Ghana on an international scale is an incredible achievement,” said David Adjaye, “and one which showcases the talent that we have to offer. The commitment and inspiration shown by the President in commissioning this pavilion is a testament to what our country has to offer the art community.”

According to the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Ghana Freedom will feature “large-scale installations by El Anatsui and Ibrahim Mahama; representation and portraiture by prominent photographer Felicia Abban and painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye; and a three-channel film projection by John Akomfrah and a video sculpture by Selasi Awusi Sosu.”

After the completion of the Biennale in November, the pavilion will travel to Accra, Ghana’s capital.

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