Nana Oforiatta Ayim

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Nana Oforiatta Ayim
Nana at the Chale Wote Street Art Festival, 2015.jpg
OccupationWriter, art historian and filmmaker

Nana Oforiatta Ayim is a Ghanaian writer, art historian and filmmaker.


Oforiatta Ayim was born into a family that belongs to the Ghanaian chieftaincy; her maternal grandfather, Nana Sir Ofori Atta I, was the reigning king of Akyem Abuakwa in the pre-independence era. His lineal heirs, the Ofori-Attas, are now Ghana's most powerful political family.

Oforiatta Ayim was raised primarily in Germany and England, as well as in her ancestral homeland in Ghana. After attending a number of schools, she received bachelor's and master's degrees, and (as of 2017) was working toward a doctorate in African languages and cultures at the University of London.[1]


Her first novel The God Child was published by Bloomsbury Publishing in 2019.[2][3] Writer Ayesha Harruna Attah describes the book as an "expansive and contemplative debut, themes of art, history, literature, film, and legacy intermingle with Maya's coming-of-age.[4] In the New York Times, Tope Folarin writes: "This is a story that is obsessed with stories; indeed, 'The God Child' could be described as a series of sharply drawn short fictions, each consequential on its own, each only glancingly connected to the others… As I read this book, with all its leaps in time and space, I sometimes had the sense that there was another narrative running just beneath the surface of the text, some alternate story that the characters I was reading about simultaneously inhabited… Kojo and Maya's migrations eventually lead them back to Ghana, where they hope to find material they need to complete their story, years in the making. A story that, like this one, will illuminate Ghana's history; a story that will coax something whole from the broken parts of their lives."[5] In The Guardian, Sarah Ladipo Manyika writes: "To date, there are only a few works of fiction that explore the African experience within continental Europe and just a handful address the Afro-German experience, so Ayim's book is important in helping to fill this gap. As we hear Maya pondering Goethe's idea of Weltliteratur and reflecting on just how lacking world literature actually is, books such as The God Child have the potential to enrich it and, in Berger's words, bring new ways of seeing."[6]

Art history[edit]

She has written widely on cultural narratives, histories, and institutions in Africa.[7] She speaks regularly on the decolonisation of knowledge and museums.[8][9][10][11] [12][13][14] To this end, she has created a pan-African Cultural Encyclopaedia.[15][16][17][18][19] The New York Times[20] writes: "The encyclopaedia will consist of an open-source internet platform for documenting past, present and future African arts and culture (starting with Ghana) and eventually will be published in 54 volumes, one for each country. An ambitious undertaking, the Cultural Encyclopaedia aims to change perceptions of the continent and help alleviate the frustration of African cultural producers concerned that their rich histories have been lost or forgotten over the decades because they lack good archives." She has also created a new type of "mobile" museum.[21][22][23][24] In The Guardian,[25] Charlotte Jansen writes: "Ayim said she started to reflect on the museum model in Africa while working at the British Museum. Struck by how differently African objects were encountered in display cabinets in the UK with how they were actively used in festivals back home, she began to think about how material culture could be preserved and presented in a way that was more in keeping with local traditions." After curating the first institutional shows of several Ghanaian artists, including James Barnor, Felicia Ansah Abban[26][27] and Ibrahim Mahama,[28][29] she curated the much acclaimed Ghana Freedom exhibition as Ghana's first ever Pavilion at the 2019 Venice Biennale.[30][31][32][33][34][35][36] In an interview with the Financial Times,[37] Ayim said: "It sometimes feels like everything happens in the diaspora. That's important and it's part of who we are. But now we need to focus on evolving work in our continent." She is the founder of the ANO Institute of Arts & Knowledge in Accra,[38] and has said that "like a lot of people involved in creative work in Ghana and other parts of Africa, it feels like it's not just enough for us to produce, but that we have to provide the context and the paradigms for that production."[28]


She became a filmmaker after working with economist Thi Minh Ngo and filmmaker Chris Marker on a new translation of his 1954 film Statues Also Die.[39] Oforiatta Ayim's films are a cross of fiction, travel essay, and documentary and have been shown at such museums as The New Museum,[40] the Tate Modern,[41][42][43] the Kunsthall Stavanger,[44][45] and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).[46][47]

Awards and honours[edit]

Oforiatta Ayim is the recipient of the 2015 Art & Technology Award from LACMA[48] and 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".[49] She was named one of the Apollo "40 under 40", as "one of the most talented and inspirational young people who are driving forward the art world today",[50] a Quartz Africa Innovator, for "finding new approaches and principles to tackle many of the intractable challenges faced on the continent",[51] one of 50 African Trailblazers by The Africa Report,[52] one of 12 African women making history in 2016 and one of 100 women "building infrastructure, both literally and metaphorically, for future generations in Africa and in the Diaspora" in 2020 by OkayAfrica.[53][54] She was a Global South Visiting Fellow at the University of Oxford.[55] and is a member of the University's Advisory Council.[56]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Nana Oforiatta Ayim's Open-Source Encyclopedia Of African History Starts With Ghana". Vogue Magazine. October 20, 2017. Retrieved May 21, 2020.
  2. ^ God Child on Amazon. ISBN 1408882426.
  3. ^ "The God Child". Retrieved 2020-03-16.
  4. ^ Attah, Ayesha H. (2020-03-03). "Nana Oforiatta Ayim on Being a Custodian of Ghanaian History". Electric Literature.
  5. ^ Tope, Folarin (2020-03-03). "The Shortlist: Wrestling With Prejudice in Three Debut Novels". The New York Times.
  6. ^ Manyika, Sarah L. (2019-12-27). "The God Child by Nana Oforiatta Ayim review – An Ambitious Debut". The Guardian.
  7. ^ Oforiatta-Ayim, Nana (2011-05-01). "Speak Now". Frieze (139). ISSN 0962-0672. Retrieved 2020-03-16.
  8. ^ "Art History". Nana Oforiatta Ayim. Retrieved 2020-04-16.
  9. ^ "SKD: Research currently". Retrieved 2020-03-16.
  10. ^ "Humans Of The Institution/".
  11. ^ "Nordic Art Review".
  12. ^ "ARCHIVES THAT MATTER". Digital Infrastructures for Sharing Unshared Histories in European Colonial Archives.
  13. ^ "The Review". Marco Gazettte.
  14. ^ "Discussion: How does a curriculum introduce and structure alternate worldviews and knowledges? | University of Oxford Podcasts - Audio and Video Lectures". 2018-11-28. Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  15. ^ Frank, Alex (2017-10-20). "Nana Oforiatta Ayim's Open-Source Encyclopedia of African History Starts With Ghana". Vogue. Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  16. ^ "OkayAfrica". Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  17. ^ "Le projet toute une vie Nana Ofori Atta Ayim". rFI.
  18. ^ "Nana Ofari Atta Ayim Creating Africas first art encyclopedia". Elle.
  19. ^ "Issue 14: Movement moving pictures a digital narrative". Digital Development Debate.
  20. ^ Mitic, Ginanne Brownell (2017-03-11). "How Diverse Is African Art? A 54-Volume Encyclopedia Will Try for an Answer". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  21. ^ McTernan, Billie Adwoa (2016-01-21). "Rethinking space in Accra, Ghana". Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  22. ^ McCool, Alice (2015-12-09). "Historian Launches "Living History Hubs" in Ghana". Vice. Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  23. ^ Ochieng, Akinyi (2017-08-31). "#Goals: Nana Oforiatta-Ayim Is the Ghanaian Creative Preserving Africa's Artistic Past". OkayAfrica. Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  24. ^ ADA (2016-09-27). "The Kiosk Museum : A Space of Exploration & Inclusive Representation". ACCRA [dot] ALT Radio. Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  25. ^ Jansen, Charlotte (2016-11-08). "Ghana's first travelling museum ready to hit the road". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  26. ^ Best, Tamara (2017-03-07). "Portraits by Ghana's First Woman Photographer". Lens Blog. Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  27. ^ Binlot, Ann (2019-06-18). "Felicia Abban's immortalization of the Ghanian female gaze". Document Journal. Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  28. ^ a b Kinsman, Houghton (2015-08-31). "Breaking down artistic barriers in Ghana". Another Africa. Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  29. ^ "It. Was. The. Jutes. It. Was. The. Jutes. –". Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  30. ^ Das, Jareh (2019-05-14). "Ghana makes a star-studded debut at the Venice Biennale". CNN. Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  31. ^ Higgins, Charlotte (2019-05-08). "Ghana shakes up art's 'sea of whiteness' with its first Venice pavilion". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  32. ^ Fernandez, Mariana (2019-05-12). "Why Ghana Chose 'Freedom' as the Theme of Its Venice Biennale Debut". The Observer. Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  33. ^ "Nana Oforiatta Ayim on Ghana's First Ever Pavilion at Venice". Contemporary And (in German). 2019-04-23. Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  34. ^ "Ghana makes pavilion debut at 2019 Venice Biennale art show". 2019-05-09. Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  35. ^ "Ghana's Erster Pavillion". Daserste. 2020-05-12. Retrieved 2020-03-23.
  36. ^ Bowles, Hamish (2019-05-20). "A Whirlwind Tour of the 2019 Venice Biennale". Vogue. Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  37. ^ Roux, Caroline (2019-05-03). "Ghana arrives at the Venice Biennale, bringing new narratives with it". Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  38. ^ Ayim, Nana Oforiatta (2018-08-07). "Institutional Memory: One Woman's Path to Bringing the World to Africa—and Africa to the World". Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  39. ^ "CCQ magazine issue 9". Issuu. 2016-04-14. Retrieved 2020-03-23.
  40. ^ Reade, Orlando (2012-02-28). "The Ungovernables". Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  41. ^ Newman, Robin (2013-05-04). "Wu Tsang". Art Agenda Reviews.
  42. ^ "Watch: Wu Tsang & Nana Oforiatta-Ayim". Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  43. ^ Tate. "States in time – Film at Tate Modern". Tate. Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  44. ^ "Endelig kvalitet i Stavanger kunstforening". (in Norwegian Bokmål). 2012-11-13. Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  45. ^ "Oil for Aladdin' lamp Symposium".
  46. ^ "Film". Nana Oforiatta Ayim. Retrieved 2020-04-16.
  47. ^ McCabe Heibel, Amy (2016-10-05). "Art + Technology in Africa | Unframed". Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  48. ^ "Cultural Encyclopaedia | LACMA". Retrieved 2020-03-23.
  49. ^ "Nana Oforiatta – Ayim | Author | Ghana". Africa Centre. 2016-02-24. Retrieved 2020-03-23.
  50. ^ "Nana Oforiatta-Ayim | Apollo 40 Under 40 Global | The Thinkers". Apollo Magazine. 2017-09-07. Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  51. ^ Staff, Quartz (2017-05-05). "Quartz Africa Innovators 2017". Quartz Africa. Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  52. ^ "Yvonne Nelson named in Africa's 'top 50 trailblazers". Pulse Gh. 2015-08-03. Retrieved 2020-03-23.
  53. ^ "12 Times African Women Have Already Made History In 2016". OkayAfrica. 2016-03-08. Retrieved 2020-03-23.
  54. ^ "Introducing OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020 List". OkayAfrica. 2020-03-18. Retrieved 2020-03-23.
  55. ^ "Nana Oforiatta Ayim". Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  56. ^ "Oxford University Appoints Nana Ofosuaa Oforiatta Ayim To Its Advisory Council". ModernGhana. 2020-01-14. Retrieved 2020-01-23.