Africa and its diaspora at the epicenter of the Venice Architecture Biennale | Architecture

“Decolonization and decarbonization” are two themes on which the 18th International Architecture Exhibition – Venice Biennale is structured, which will take place from the 20th of May to the 26th of November, with Africa as the epicenter and The Laboratory of the Future by motto, said this Tuesday the president of the Bienal, Roberto Cicutto, in the presentation of the exhibition.

With official representations from 63 countries, with Portugal and Brazil being the only Portuguese-speakers present, the Bienal also has 89 participants in the exhibitions and special projects of O Laboratory of the Futurein most of Africa and the African diaspora, including Banga Colectivo, an architecture office in Luanda and Lisbon, and the Brazilian studio Cartografia Negra.

“This will be the first [edição] experimenting on the ground with a path to achieving carbon neutrality, to the point that the exhibition is structured around the themes of decolonization and decarbonization”, said Roberto Cicutto in Venice.

The curator of this edition, Lesley Lokko, an architect of Ghanaian origin, born in Scotland, reinforced the breadth of themes to be addressed in an edition that wants to be a “laboratory of the future”, with the African continent as a “protagonist”, because, “if there is a place on this planet where all issues of equity, race, hope and fear converge and come together, it is Africa”.

When he took over the curatorship and presented the theme of this edition, at the beginning of last year, it was immediately clear that The Laboratory of the Future would represent change, said Lesley Lokko now, recalling how the setting up of the exhibition imposed the debate “about resources, rights and risks”.

“The spotlight has fallen on Africa and the African diaspora, that fluid and tangled culture of descendants that spans the globe. What do we want to say? How will anything change what we say? How will it interact with and influence what others say?” the curator.

“It is often said that culture is the sum total of the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves. While this is true, what the statement lacks is any recognition” that “the reach and power” of the “dominant voice […] ignore large areas of humanity, at a financial, collective and conceptual level”, said Lokko, to underline that “it is in this context that exhibitions [da Bienal] care”.

For the curator, the objective is that this edition does not translate a single story and turns out to be “a dazzling and conflicting kaleidoscope of ideas, contexts, aspirations and meanings”.

The Laboratory of the Future consists of six exhibitions, divided between the themes force majeure It is Dangerous Liaisons. The first’s projects will focus on the Central Pavilion, favoring African or diaspora architects, such as Diébédo Francis Kéré, from Burkina Faso, Kabage Karanja, from Kenya, David Adjaye, from Tanzania, Guillaume Koffi, from Ivory Coast, or Christian Benimana, from Rwanda.

The Arsenal, another of the main areas of the Biennial, will host “dangerous connections” between architecture and other disciplines, through professionals from five continents, such as Serge Attukwei Clottey, from Ghana, Paulo Tavares and Glória Cabral, from Brazil, the Frenchman Léopold Lambert, of the Funambuliste project, joined in a “special participation” by the Israeli filmmaker and architect Amos Gitai, the photographer James Morris, from Wales, and the “poet of architecture” LionHeartfelt, from London.

The curator’s “special projects”, which address themes ranging from food, agriculture and climate change to issues of gender, geography and memory, have 30 participants, such as the Black Females in Architecture office, from London, and Cartografia Negra, from Brasil, in addition to Banga Colectivo, included in the “Guests from the Future”, dedicated to emerging values.

The Biennial’s collaboration with the Victoria & Albert Museum in London will be reflected in the exhibition Tropical Modernism: Architecture and Power in West Africatraversing symbols of the colonial past and simultaneously witnessing the rupture with that past, said the director of the British museum, Tristram Hunt, in the presentation this Tuesday.

The official Portuguese representation, presented last week, is made by the project Fertile Futurescurated by Andreia Garcia, which addresses the scarcity of fresh water and the search for solutions for the sustainable management of water resources based on seven national cases: “the impact of the Gigabattery in the Tâmega basin; the breach of convention in the International Douro ; mining in the Middle Tagus; the imposition of interests in the Alqueva reservoir; the anarchy in the irrigation perimeter of the River Mira; the overloading of the lakes in Lagoa das Sete Cidades and the risk of flooding on the Madeiran riversides”.

The pre-opening of the 18th Venice Architecture Biennale will take place on the 18th and 19th of May, and the awarding of prizes to the national representations will take place at the opening, on the 20th of May.

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