By Nii B. Andrews.

African countries have a strong presence at the current TRIENNALE’S 23RD EXHIBITION in Milan which continues until December 11 this year.

The continent has six countries participating out of a total cohort of 23 countries with pavilions.

They are Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. The theme of the triennale is  THE UNKNOWN UNKNOWNS, AN INTRODUCTION TO MYSTERIES.

Francis Kéré – the ground breaking Pritzker Prize winning architect, and Ersilia Vaudo, astrophysicist at the European Space Agency, are the curators of the event.

The curators have assembled an intriguing exhibition that delves into the evolution of the city to the oceans, and from genetics to astrophysics.

They have brought together scientists, artists, and designers to show the world what we still don’t know, we don’t know!

The Triennale features a selection of artwork and installations designed by 400 international architects and designers.

Celebrating 100 years since its foundation, this year’s exhibition presents a new way of looking at the mysteries of the world, seeing it as an opportunity to investigate subjects such as the furthest universe to dark matter and the origin of our conscience.

Kéré has set up four installations at the event with the purpose of addressing the relative paucity of recognition for the African continent; he shows the world traditional culture and beauty, as well as topical issues, challenges and concerns.

 He declared, “The aim of each of the four installations is to create spaces for people to find comfort, no matter their financial situation”. 

The first installation is an enigmatic 12 m tower titled, “The Future’s Present”, situated right at the entrance of the triennale; it is therefore impossible to miss.

The construction creates a dedicated space for people to escape the all encompassing hectic rhythms of the city.

It provides an escape or shelter within the tower that overlooks the surrounding landscape; a quiet place – and a space of contemplation and imagination.

Kéré explained, “Basically, what I wanted to do with this structure, with my team, was to create a relationship between people and the sky, as well as a space for the imagination”.

His second installation, titled “Yesterday’s Tomorrow” is found right in the central space of the international exhibitions. 

It references the vernacular architecture of Burkina Faso, and consists of two walls that curve into themselves. 

Once in and around, a seating area reveals itself, offering another small escape to the visitors.

Then there is the third entry – a dynamic and evolving one called “Drawn Together” – a room where women artists are embellishing the wall by painting with powerful cultural symbols and ideographs while utilizing simple brushes and paint, all made out of natural materials. 

The message here is that music, family, and the role of animals must converge in the equitable sharing of resources and harmonious living. Exhibition goers are invited to participate in the painting – a truly communal effort at creating harmony.

Kéré’s final and fourth installation reinforces the thrust of the third one. 

Titled, “Under a Coffee Tree”, the celebrated African architect decorates the Triennale’s communal café area.

In collaboration with the Lavazza Group, the tree and seating benches bring people closer together, as does the ritual of coffee for countries around the world. 

Kéré sums it up elegantly, “What we want, is for people to sit and reflect on what they have seen during the exhibition, and then begin a dialogue of contemplation with their seating neighbor.”

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