Nana Oforiatta Ayim

Nana Oforiatta Ayim says: “My work studies what we still call indigenous knowledge systems, and the scope that lies within them. They are often non-dualistic, pluriversal, non-static, dynamic and in constant flux; multiplicities of worlds and peoples coexisting, circular, interdependent. While in Siena, I will work on a book project that examines my journey into one particular knowledge system: the Ghanaian Ayan, or drum poetics, which is not only a form of historicizing/ telling history, but a form within which various ontologies are encapsulated, both in content and in form. The spaces within which the Ayan are told are most often Afahye, most commonly translated as festivals, but which to me seem more like total works of art, encompassing music, storytelling, poetry, history, design etc. The Ayan has shaped my fiction writing, exhibition making, and film making. The book considers the Afahye as living museum models, and how they might expand what we know as the museum form into an ecology or constellation knowledges. Inspired by John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, the book aims to provide other ways of knowing and perceiving, and asks: How could paradigms that we developed for thousands of years and that resonated with so many people serve as models for institutions that could be more inclusive and democratic than the ones that were imported wholesale from the West? How could these paradigms that encompass culture, the environment, cosmology, plant medicine, archaeology, conservation, and education be translated into equally polyvalent structures? How does one create a radical and structural institutional and epistemic departure from the prevailing paradigms and boundaries? And what are the limiting factors within academia and within museums, the discordance between practices and discourse, and how do we begin to break them down?

Nana Oforiatta Ayim holds a Masters in African Art History. Her novel The God Child, was published by Bloomsbury in the UK & US (2019, 2020) and in Germany by Penguin (2021). She initiated and curated Ghana’s first ever pavilion for the Venice Biennale She founded the ANO Institute of Arts and Knowledge and, through it, developed a number of large-scale projects, such as a Pan-African Cultural Encyclopaedia that strives to trace indigenous knowledge systems and ontologies through the African continent and a Mobile Museums project that travels into communities across Ghana in order to uncover the best possible model for its context.

Image: ANO Mobile Museum