Chronicles of Fury In Response to Ghana’s Venice Biennale Pavilion-ILAPI Writes

This statement is from no other than ordinary Ghanaians who think in the face of an inability to defeat series of simple eradicable communicable diseases, Ghana should do anything other than clean the country first in its bid to attract tourists.

The statement is a response to the news that government is to pay millions of Cedis to operate a Ghana pavilion at the prestigious Venice Biennale. These few furious Ghanaians strongly think there are more urgent issues that state funds should be invested in, even within the broken art and & culture sector.

Excuse our French! But a country that consistently ranks in first 10 of open defecation list worldwide does not need a pavilion at Venice Biennale. It should give its artists the incentives to build toilets and sweep their country, not spend money to build pavilions at prestigious art events. It is only logical that arresting sanitation issues gives more tourists than paying for such a kiosk. Countries like Senegal, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, have consistently ranked above us in tourism.

They achieved that with sound aviation, museum & monument, sanitation, land and building regulations, archiving, record keeping and Labor policies.

Ghanaian youth are some of the most creative ones on this planet. But in the face of open defecation, lack of opportunities, land guard and vigilantism menaces, there are no opportunities for them. The only way this kiosk is justifiable is if one lacks appreciation of the issues the ground or does not care about the ordinary Ghanaian. We heard it involves the renowned architect David Adjaye.

As far as we know, the only building he designed in Ghana is the residence of our departed world leader, Nana Atta Kofi Busumrum Annan, Nyame nfa Nekra ensi iye. Maybe since many diaspora Ghanaians own homes in Ghana, he may have designed his own home. We don’t know.

But we can bet his house alone would bring more tourists than this pavilion/kiosk. We thought since Senegal is opening Africa’s most talked about architecture; which is to be Africa’s biggest civilizations archive, Ghana will make a move for the right reasons. But here we are furious at our own actions, again! For the past 4 years, two KNUST students, one engineer, another artist, and myself the initiator of this statement, designed a tool that will allow Ghana to only go for covered gutters and still be able to clean them effectively on daily basis.

The tool needed further research to be developed into some kind of a simple robot that allows us to do that through a small opening at every 10 to 20 meters. Imagine what a relief this would be in the face of these serious urban sanitation problems in Ghana. The only support we received was from a design and art residency Centre in Holland. When an Inner City & Zongo Minister was appointed, we thought it could be our breakthrough. Efforts to solicit state support were not easy. With the help of Nubuke Foundation, we found a KNUST student acquainted to the former Zongo and Inner City Minister, Boniface.

The first attempt for him to put us in contact with the minister was met with this question: “what’s in it for me?”. Obviously he meant financial compensation, aka bribe. We made a vague commitment, not a promise. But he sensed there was no readiness to be concrete with the bribe so he stopped picking our calls. While personal problems piled, we got lost in translation and put aside the project. We are not saying Ghana should not go to Venice Biennale. But won’t it make more sense if Sir Ajaye should first design our museums, our public offices so that our ministries can finally move out of former colonial Administration buildings? He should be building our entire social imaginations, our new infrastructural paths, not kiosks at biennales to bring people to see how we defecate in the open at serene beaches. But I read he is designing a cathedral for us, at least that leaves a mark of his genius on our soil.

For anyone who plans to blame this prominent architect for building cathedral instead of a train station or museum, I think we can relate to why he got involved in this project in the first place. Maybe it’s this good old thing Ghanaian diaspora experiences; thus “if they won’t support your ideas, you just get involved in something they’re doing just so you can also leave a mark on the continent”. We don’t know, so this is just an attempt to give this genius a benefit of the doubt. It is also possible he was part of the original cathedral idea.

But we don’t know. All we want to say is that while we understand we need tourists to showcase our beautiful cultures, our football, our friendliness and brilliance, we need to recognize our society has decayed into open defecation, men and women urinating in the open, behind houses, near drinking waters, etc. Including serious issues like politicization of our food, school system, sports, our youth, our traditions and most horrifyingly, our nuclear family structure.

It is ironic but not entirely coincidental that it is in this same Italy where a racist right wing government treats African migrants like spoilt goods, that the government has set up shop. Instead of this kiosk, we could at least stop open defecation, spread of cholera, perennial flooding, plastic chocking through sound policies and funding of our art geniuses, not kiosks far away from us across the Mediterranean Sea where our youth, due to these same issues, are escaping to avoid them, and dangerously risking their lives to cross the ocean and losing their lives in high numbers. If Ghana does this kiosk, we, these furious few, believe it is the blood of those youth dying in the Mediterranean Sea we are celebrating at the pavilion.


A. Salisu 0546438266


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