Famed Ghanaian Art Historian Oforiatta Ayim Wins World’s Biggest History Prize | General news
Ghanaian Nana Ofosuaa Oforiatta Ayim has been awarded the world’s largest history prize founded by Romanian philanthropist Dan David, with an annual $3 million scholarship for outstanding early and mid-career scholars and practitioners in the historical disciplines.
In the past, the award has been won by outstanding thinkers, such as conservationist Al Gore; leader of the Smithsonians Lonnie Bunch; filmmakers The Coen Brothers; novelist Jamaica Kincaid; Wikipedia founder Jimmie Wales; theater manager Peter Brook; playwright Tom Stoppard; musician Yo-Yo Ma.
Based at Tel Aviv University, the Dan David Prize is a major international award that recognizes and supports unique contributions to the study of history and other disciplines that shed light on the human past.
The annual scholarship of $3 million makes this prize the largest prize in history in the world. The Prize is endowed by the Dan David Foundation.
Nana Ofosuaa Oforiatta Ayim is the first Ghanaian to win this award.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Ofori-Atta Ayim discussed the consequences of centuries of colonialism with Nobel Prize winner Abdulrazak Gurnah, who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2021. Originally from Tanzania, his fiction reflects the ethnic diversity of the country. East Africa, exploring issues such as migration and cultural uprooting.
Interestingly, art historian, writer and filmmaker Nana Ofosuaa Oforiatta Ayim has developed a new language for talking about African art that does not replicate Western concepts, pioneering a pan-African cultural encyclopedia and project of mobile museums in Ghana.
While coming from different perspectives, both Gurnah and Ayim create works that challenge simple narratives and structures built on imperial models.
They explore how to remember a past deliberately eclipsed and erased by colonialism.
NANA OFORIATTA AYIM
Director, ANO Ghana
Nana Oforiatta Ayim is a curator, writer, filmmaker and public historian whose work refocuses African narratives, institutions and cultural expressions in the narrative of the past. She is the founder of the ANO Institute of Arts and Knowledge, where she launched a pan-African cultural encyclopedia, developed a mobile museums project and curated Ghana’s first pavilion at the Venice Biennale.
Oforiatta Ayim’s work aims to counter the fact that much of our historical knowledge has been usurped by the colonial encounter – the way historical narratives are framed, methods of archiving, ontologies and epistemologies. Her work gives voice to those characters in history who have been traditionally ignored, connecting them to contemporary expression and placing them side by side with others in the global canon.
Oforiatta Ayim has published a novel, The God Child (2019), made award-winning films for museums including Tate Modern, LACMA and The New Museum, and is a lecturer in history and theory at the Architectural Association in London.
She is the recipient of various awards and accolades, having been named one of Apollo’s “40 under 40”, one of Africa’s 50 Pioneers by The Africa Report, a Quartz Africa Innovator in 2017, one of 12 Women women making history in 2016 and one of the 100 women of 2020 by Okayafrica.
She received the 2015 LACMA Art & Technology Award and the 2016 AIR Award, which “aims to honor and celebrate extraordinary African artists who are committed to producing provocative, innovative and socially engaging work”.
In 2018, she received a Soros Arts Fellowship and was a Global South Visiting Scholar at the University of Oxford. In 2020, she was appointed to the Advisory Board of the University of Oxford’s Cultural Program and served as a Principal Investigator of the Action for Restitution to Africa programme. In 2021, she received the Ghana Woman of the Year Award.
Oforiatta Ayim Ayim is currently Special Advisor to the Ghanaian Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture on Museums and Cultural Heritage. She holds a BA in Russian and Politics from Bristol University, an MA in African Art History from SOAS and is completing a PhD in Museum Ethnography at Oxford University.
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