AYAN - New Ways of Seeing
Date: Thursday 21 November 2019
Venue: AA Lecture Hall
Ways of historicising that are seemingly authoritative, singular, hierarchical subjective and linear, are giving way to more pluralistic, fluid ways of conveying narratives. One of these ways is the Ayan, a form of musical language and history telling of the Akan people of West Africa, that is allusive, elliptical, and multi-textured. The Ayan are evocative, rather than narrative; cyclical, rather than linear. They are told in the continuous or historic present, so that the past is continuously reconstituted in the present. The offbeat is as important as the sounded, what is left out is as important as what is pronounced. Their overall formal pattern is flexible, so that the performer can vary the order of the Ayan from one performance to the next; reshaping themes and motifs so that the text is constituted anew with each performance; and even though each subject is given particularity, they share components and inhabit spaces of their predecessors, so that the ‘I’ of the Ayan moves between male and female, specific and generalised persona. This fluidity of interpretation together with others make up a multivocality of oral, musical, performance and visual forms. I have drawn on the form of the Ayan as well as its multivocality in my writing, films, and art historical work; creating a Mobile Museum and Cultural Encyclopaedia that are predicted on collaborative identity-making, fluidity of interpretation, and polyrhythmic open-endedness of text; that aim to question and create continuously new realities.
Nana Ofosuaa Oforiatta Ayim has a Masters in African Art History with a thesis on contemporary Ghanaian art, and a research degree in African Languages and Cultures with a thesis on the Ayan, a classical Ghanaian form of philosophy and history, which she has since used as the basis of her work as a writer, art historian and filmmaker. She has written for publications like frieze, Kaleidoscope, ArtNews and African Metropolitan Architecture, and is publishing her first novel, The God Child, with Bloomsbury Publishing in November 2019. She has made several films, a cross of fiction, travel essay, and documentary, that have been shown at institutions, like The New Museum, Tate Modern, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Channel 4, UK. She is the founder of the ANO Institute of Arts & Knowledge, through which she has pioneered a pan-African Cultural Encyclopaedia; a Mobile Museum; Cultural Leadership Fellowship, and Ghana’s first pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2019. She is the recipient of the 2015 Art & Technology Award from LACMA; of the 2016 AIR Award, which “seeks to honour and celebrate extraordinary African artists who are committed to producing provocative, innovative and socially-engaging work”; and of the inaugural Soros Arts Fellowship. She has been named one of the Apollo '40 under 40’; one of 50 African Trailblazers by The Africa Report; one of 12 African women making history by Okayafrica; a Quartz Africa Innovator; and is a Global South Visiting Fellow at Oxford University.
Image: Mobile Museum, designed by architect Latifah Iddriss and D.K. Osseo Asare
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