Lesley Lokko to curate Venice Architecture Biennale

Lesley Lokko. Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia

Lesley Lokko will curate the next Venice Architecture Biennial. The Scottish and Ghanaian academic is  (Ghana/Scotland) is the founder and director of the African Futures Institute, established in 2020 in Accra, Ghana, as a postgraduate school of architecture and public events platform, having previously established the the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg.

In 2019 she was appointed the dean of the Bernard and Anne Spitzer school of architecture in New York but left after a year citing a ‘lack of respect and empathy for black women’.

‘It was a textbook “problem woman of colour” scenario,’ Lokko told The Guardian in 2020. ‘The black woman arrives in an organisation and everyone is so enthusiastic. It’s treated like the coming of the second messiah. Then she begins to question the organisation and hold people accountable for their actions, and soon she’s targeted and made out to be the problem.’

Born in Dundee to a Ghanaian father and Scottish Jewish mother, but raised in Accra, Lokko studied Hebrew and Arabic at Oxford for a term before relocating to the US for the first time. She returned to Britain in 1988 to study architecture at The Bartlett, London.

Alongside teaching internationally, for the past thirty years, her work in both architecture and literature has looked at the relationship between race, culture and space. In 2004 she wrote her first novel, Sundowners, followed up by 11 more works of fiction. Her thirteenth book, The Lonely Hour, is forthcoming in 2023. In 2000 she authored White Papers, Black Marks: Race, Space and Architecture.

Lokko said choosing an Africa-based curator was a ‘bold, brave’ choice by the Biennale. ‘A new world order is emerging, with new centres of knowledge production and control. New audiences are also emerging, hungry for different narratives, different tools and different languages of space, form, and place. After two of the most difficult and divisive years in living memory, architects have a unique opportunity to show the world what we do best: put forward ambitious and creative ideas that help us imagine a more equitable and optimistic future in common.’

Having swapped to odd years after the postponement of the 2020 edition, the 18th International Architecture Exhibition will be open to the public from 20 May to 26 November 2023.

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