You have got to love it when Ghanaian art, history and culture goes out to show off to the world. For me it is always fun to see a little bit of Ghana appear when you least expect it. Curving galleries plastered with earth characterise Ghana Freedom, the
country’s national pavilion at the 58th Venice Art Biennale, designed by architect David Adjaye. Now open in the Venetian Arsenal, Ghana Freedom marks the first time that the country has presented at the prestigious art event.
Modelled on traditional Gurunsi earth houses, the Ghana pavilion comprises a series of interconnected oval-shaped galleries topped by a wooden roof. It contains artwork that celebrate the country’s heritage and culture.
“Being able to show the diversity and creativity of Ghana on an international scale is an incredible achievement, and one which showcases the talent that we have to offer,” explained Adjaye. “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.”
The narrative and name for the pavilion originates from the song Ghana Freedom, which was written by E T Mensah in 1957 ahead of the country’s independence from the UK. Curated by film maker Nana Oforiatta Ayim, the exhibits “examine the legacies and trajectories” of this time.
Visitors can expect to see large-scale installations by El Anatsui and Ibrahim Mahama, alongside portraits by Felicia Abban and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, a film by John Akomfrah and a video sculpture by Selasi Awusi Sosu.
The artwork adorns the walls of the galleries to evoke the intricate mud and chalk paintings found in the Gurunsi dwellings.
“It means a lot for us to have our first national pavilion at such a narrative-building event as the Venice Biennale, especially at this moment,” explained Ayim.
“The conversation about nations is broadening in the face of issues of migrations; of us redefining our connections to our throughout our ‘year of return’; of discussing what it might mean to have our cultural objects returned, and how we thus might redefine ourselves in the world; and of finally moving out of the ‘postcolonial’ moment into one we have yet to envision.”
David Adjaye is a British-Ghanaian architect and founder of Adjaye Associates, which has studios in both London and New York.