Ghanaian architect David Adjaye used mud from home country to design the Pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale

Ghana will for the first time leave a mark at the Venice Art Biennale, which opens on May 11.

Sir David Adjaye receives his knighthood on behalf of HM Queen Elizabeth II

This is because six Ghanaian artists will be exhibiting their work. Another reason is that renowned Ghanaian architect David Adjaye has designed a pavilion with mud from Ghana.

According to Architectural Designs, the pavilion which is located in the Arsenale is a series of connected rooms shaped by curved walls, wending around the structure’s historic columns.

Adjaye called it a “parametric elliptoid” which is familiar in Ghana. As he explains, “it is based on a West African vernacular, the classical earth architecture of the Sahel. Most people know these forms as ruins, seen as photography from overhead. You never see these interiors.”

He added that he shipped the mud for the building of the wall from Ghana to Venice. Adjaye said “It’s real Ghanian earth. We brought the bags and we mixed it here.”

According to Adjaye, he has future plans for this type of pavilion. “This is not just a pavilion in Venice,” he says. “It’s a prototype for a potential national museum in Ghana. It’s a fragment, a test, and Venice is the experiment ground.”

He added that he working with the government of Ghana on a design for a new National Cathedral, and “we are talking to the government about doing a national contemporary art museum.”

Adjaye first proposed the concept of a pavilion to the Ghanaian government because “there are so many Ghanian artists, both in Ghana and in the diaspora,” but “they were at risk of being missed.” When the team pitched the idea to the government, the response was immediate: “They were shocked—this was something they didn’t know was happening.”

The pavilion, “Ghana Freedom,” brings together six of Ghana’s contemporary art. They are Felicia Abban, John Akomfrah, El Anatsui, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Ibrahim Mahama, and Selasi Awusi Sosu.

Adjaye explained that this is featuring 6 art instead of the regular one art because “this is a onetime opportunity that might not happen again, so we needed to come in with the best show—basically a museum show—to show the range not just to the international world but also to the Ghanian world and to other African nations.”

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