Next year, the British-Ghanaian filmmaker and artist John Akomfrah will fill the British pavilion at the 60th Venice Biennale (20 April-24 November 2024). “It is without doubt one of the most exciting opportunities that an artist can be presented with,” said Akomfrah after accepting the commission from the British Council.
Through his distinctive multiscreen video installations, Akomfrah’s work explores charged social issues like racial injustice, displacement, and extreme weather events. “The quality and contextual depth of his artistry never fails to inspire deep reflection and awe,” remarked Skinder Hundal, the global director of arts at the British Council and commissioner of the British Pavilion. “For the British Council to have such a significant British-Ghanaian artist in Venice is an exhilarating moment.”
As a child Akomfrah moved to London with his family from Accra, Ghana, in 1966 following intense political unrest in the country. In the early 1980s, he quickly rose to prominence as a founder of the Black Audio Film Collective (BAFC), a group of seven artists who challenged the representation of black British people in the media. Akomfrah was awarded the prestigious Artes Mundi prize in 2017, and he was recently knighted in the King’s New Year UK Honours List for 2023.
Reflecting on his appointment at the 2024 British pavilion, Akomfrah said “I’m grateful to be given a moment to explore the complex history and significance of this institution and the nation it represents, as well as its architectural home in Venice – with all the stories it has told and will continue to.“
Akomfrah has already participated in two previous Venice Biennales. In 2015, he showed a three-screen film installation called ‘Vertigo Sea’, which reflected on humanity’s relationship with the ocean, and in 2018 he premiered ‘Purple’, a six-channel video installation that explored the destruction of the natural world through Africa’s declining elephant populations.
Last year, the UK representative at the 2022 Venice Biennale, Sonia Boyce, won the Golden Lion prize for Best National Participation at the 59th Venice Biennale.