London's Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) has shared details of its new Tropical Modernism: Architecture and Power in West Africa exhibition that will be included in the upcoming 2023 Venice Biennale in May.
The show is co-organized with the Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA) and Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and will be on view as a special project in the Applied Arts Pavilion until the Biennale ends in late November.
Together they will present an analysis of modern British architecture’s contributions first to colonial power and later to the post-Independence political movement that shaped countries in West Africa after 1957. It will feature a multi-channel film installation and showcase selections from the AA’s defunct Department of Tropical Architecture, along with twelve key projects. This is a very prescient historical companion to curator Lesley Lokko’s theme of Africa as a “laboratory of the future,” and will travel to the UK in 2024 as an expanded exhibition at the V&A’s London galleries in 2024.
The show’s Lead Curator, Dr. Christopher Turner, said: “Through close study of the work of the Department of Tropical Studies and its collaboration with KNUST, our Venice presentation explores the ways in which Tropical Modernism was adapted by Ghanaian architects to promote Nkrumah’s Pan-African ideals during a transitional moment in which new freedoms were won and a break with the colonial past was articulated through architecture. It considers the power of architecture, both as a means of colonial suppression and a symbol of nascent political freedom, as well as exploring the specific legacy of Tropical Modernism in West Africa.”
His colleagues Nana Biamah-Ofosu and Bushra Mohamed (both of the AA) added: “This exhibition investigates the AA’s archives and institutional history in relation to its collaboration with KNUST in the 1960s. Our research centers the significant African figures of this collaboration whose voices and recollections are missing within the archives. By revisiting key buildings developed by prominent architects of the time, we are interested in the story of politics, power, resistance and freedom that this architecture came to represent in the post-independence Pan-African dream. This exhibition presents an important moment in centering African architecture, architects, and historians, and addressing the omissions and erasure evident in the archives.”
The exhibition begins on May 20th. More of our coverage of the 2023 events in Venice can be found here.
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