Ghana has announced the three artists that will represent it at this year’s Venice Biennale, set to open in April. The exhibition for the country’s national pavilion will be titled “Black Star—The Museum as Freedom,” a reference to the black star that is in the center of the Ghanian flag which acts as a symbol of freedom from colonialism.
The exhibition will include work by Na Chainkua Reindorf, Afroscope, and Diego Araúja. The pavilion’s curator is art historian and filmmaker Nana Oforiatta Ayim, who is the director of the ANO Institute of Arts & Knowledge in Accra and director of Ghana’s Museums and Cultural Heritage.
For the pavilion, Reindorf will present large-scale, mixed-media installations that tell the mythology of Mawu Nyonu, a fictitious secret society of women imbued with natural forces. Afroscope’s will show Ashe, which will use technology to embody the flow of life through natural elements. And Diego Araúja’s contribution will be A Congress of Salt, which will reimagine the Atlantic Ocean, the main conduit for the the trans-Atlantic slave trade, as the birthplace of a new, rich creole society.
The pavilion will be designed by architect DK Osseo Asare and draws on the ideologies of the “Mobile Museum”, an art exhibition and educational program that travels into communities across Ghana that is part of the ANO Institute of Arts & Knowledge. At each stop of the Mobile Museum, people are encouraged to contribute to its curation, affording them influence over their culture’s institutional representation. During the Venice Biennale, a program based on the Mobile Museum will be held in spaces throughout the city.
In a statement, Oforiatta Ayim said, “Ghana in its 65th year still grapples with political, economic, cultural, social and knowledge systems not made of or for its contexts. Systems created within its communities over thousands of years were deemed inferior to ones termed ‘universal’ by dominant powers.”
She continued, “As we outgrow and move beyond ill-fitting systems; new ones, not yet defined, that draw on rich histories, not with nostalgia but with discernment of hindsight and experience; are forming.”
In 2019, Ghana presented its first pavilion at the Venice Biennale, a series of interlocking spaces by architect David Adjaye that presented work by painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, sculptor El Anatsui, installation artist Ibrahim Mahama, and video artist John Akomfrah. Oforiatta Ayim oversaw that exhibition with input from the late curator Okwui Enwezor, who worked as an advisor until his death in March 2019. Those pieces touched on themes including environmental damage, colonial violence, and Ghana’s path after achieving independence from Britain in 1957.