"The Laboratory of the Future", Venice Architecture Biennale 2023
The 2023 Venice Architecture Biennale has embarked on a transformative journey by placing Africa and its talented artists at the forefront of the international art scene. Curated by Lesley Lokko, this year's Biennale embraces the theme "The Laboratory of the Future". Highlighting the brilliant creativity and diverse visions of African artists, the exhibition, which is on view until 29 November, challenges Eurocentric historical dominance, celebrates Africa's cultural heritage and paves the way for a more inclusive and globally representative art world. Of the 89 participants featured in the Biennale's main exhibition, more than half are from Africa or the African diaspora.
The V&A installation, which also includes a 30-minute video, aims to "complicate the history of tropical modernism by engaging and centring African perspectives". Andrea Avezzu', La Biennale di Venezia
Africa's unprecedented representation at the Venice Architecture Biennale brings together established and emerging African talent, highlighting the depth and richness of artistic expression that exists on the African continent. Established participants include Francis Kéré, the first African to receive the prestigious Pritzker Prize, who has made significant contributions to architecture; Nigerian Olalekan Jeyifous, known for his imaginative and futuristic installations, which present brilliant visions of an Africa free from the vestiges of colonialism, and Mariam Kamara, also from Nigeria, who celebrates Africa's architectural heritage through her historic structures, which reinforce the importance of reclaiming narratives and expanding the range of architectural references.
Serge Attukwei Clottey, an artist from Ghana, stitched together pieces of yellow oil gallons - commonly used in Africa to store and transport water - for his piece "Time and Chance".
In addition, this year's theme addresses two imperative global concerns: decolonisation and decarbonisation. African artists and architects have addressed these themes, which offer new perspectives on redefining the built environment in a more sustainable and equitable way. Their works delve into the complex interplay between history, culture and the environment, which challenge existing narratives and idealise a future that is conscious and socially inclusive.
"Afritect" by MASS. In this piece, members of MASS's Africa studio discuss the meaning of various words in Rwanda's national language. Credit: Matteo de Mayda, via La Biennale di Venezia
This landmark event, featuring renowned African participants alongside emerging talent, created a platform for dialogue, inspiration and transformative possibilities. As the art world embraces this significant shift, the profound impact of African artists and their contributions to shaping the future of art and architecture around the world must be recognised.