Ghana presented its first National Pavilion at the 58th Venice International Art Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia, from 11 May – 24 November 2019. The first Ghana Pavilion at the 2019 Biennale Arte takes place under the patronage of Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. Entitled “Ghana Freedom,” after the song composed by E.T. Men-sah on the eve of the independence of the new nation in 1957, the pavilion examines the legacies and trajectories of that freedom by six artists, across three generations. Rooted both in Ghanaian culture and its diasporas, the pavilion exhibition curated by Nana Ofori-atta Ayim include large-scale installations by El Anatsui and Ibrahim Mahama; representa-tion and portraiture by prominent photographer Felicia Abban and painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye; and a three-channel film projection by John Akomfrah and a video sculp-ture by Selasi Awusi Sosu. The Ghanaian pavilion is designed by Sir David Adjaye, with each artist exhibiting in elliptically-shaped interconnected spaces, that draw inspiration from classical structures in Ghana.

As part of Ghana’s first pavilion at the Venice Biennale, a series of regional interventions will take place in Ghana. A Mobile Museum curated by Nana Oforiatta Ayim and designed by the young architect Latifah Iddriss will move around the country, region by region, col-lecting and exhibiting oral and visual histories, objects, photographs, documents and much more, and discovering what is of cultural value to communities in Ghana, how this might resonate and inform their everyday lives, and how culture can activate develop-ment. In this context, culture is very central and an essential change catalyst that will ac-celerate our nation’s development, inform relevant policy change; as a result of the cultu-ral sector’s contribution to the economy, through tourism and an increase in employment via creative practices.

A series of discussions which will examine how culture can play a meaningful and activat-ing role in nation-building, tourism, and economic development, will also be organised in each region in collaboration with stakeholders, and contemporary artists. These contem-porary artists have created works that deal with themes around that area; e.g. the discus-sion with the artist Caleb Aryee whose work documents the Kayayei girls in the North of Ghana will centre on trade, labour and industry; in the Upper East the discussion with art-ist Josephine Kuuire whose work deals with constructions of gender will centre on gender and society; the work in the Central Region with the artist Kwame Akoto Bamfo whose work unpacks the transatlantic slave trade will deal with justice, law and equality; the work in the Upper West with Faustina Ayambire who works as one of the Sirigu mural artists will centre on architecture and the Built Environment; and that with the Argorsors in the Volta Region whose work is informed by traditional knowledge systems will look at educa-tion, science and technology.

They will also spearhead agency and sustainable development across these regions, a-long with high-impact NGOs, institutes and charities, like the Loozeele (hope) community-based initiative by Teni Agana - a former Kayayo who is working with the Kayayei girls to equip them with entrepreneurial and literacy opportunities to sustain themselves and re-main in the North; the Sirugu Women’s Organisation for Pottery and Art (SWOPA), who are committed to finding a place for people, especially women to receive training to deve-lop their skills to improve the livelihood of their families and communities; and the Interna-tional Justice Mission (IJM), who are currently fighting against child slavery in Ghana.

The Mobile Pavilion will be managed by the next generation of cultural leaders, Angela Okorie, Benedicta Gokah and Désiré Eli-Zafoe through the ANO Cultural Leadership Fel-lowship funded by the Impact Fund for African Creatives (IFFAC), which is working on ex-panding the social capital of African countries.