Field Note

5.615800 / N 5° 36’ 56.88’’-0.181775 / W 0° 10’ 54.39’’

Lesley Lokko OBE

My thoughts on scarcity? It’s not a place I’m instinctively comfortable operating from, whether philosophically or conceptually. However, I’m not so naïve as to pretend that it is not a pressing concern, especially in the coordinates of the world where I’m from, live, and work. Over the past 18 months, I’ve had more occasion than in the past 18 years to think carefully about what it means to speak to the world from this location and what it means to speak to this location from the rest of the world, two simultaneous (if we’re lucky) conversations that are both the same and yet very, very different. Words and images are my medium and métier. I think of them as no less or more significant than material objects, but I am aware too of the comparative ease that working in intangibles brings. Two statements by West Africans, separated by some 60 years, seem to be good places to start.

The underlying conundrum—or motif—is expressed in the desire to change, to dare, to invent a future that may not be visible, present, or easily grasped. That implies a reckoning with the present, particularly its circumstances and leit-motif. It implies an in-depth, critical, and unselfconscious look at where we are, what tools are available, and what traps to avoid. The thread that connects Oshinowo and the theme of the Sharjah Triennale to Biamah-Ofosu and Sankara is not geography, or even regional identity. It lies in the subtly described effects of long-term living with a certain amount of resource lack, on the one hand, and a subsequent sophistication in dealing with it, overcoming it, and coping with it, that translates not to abundance, but to responsibility. Or, as the late, great Nobel laureate Toni Morrison put it, “response-ability.” The ability of any artist—architect, writer, curator—to provoke a response in their readers, makers, visitors, and users.

“What if we gave ourselves permission to operate from a place of abundance, rather than scarcity, or making do?”

— Nana Biamah-Ofosu

“It took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen. We must dare to invent the future.”

— Thomas Sankara

Professor Lesley Lokko OBE, a Ghanaian-Scottish architect, educator, and best-selling novelist, founded the African Futures Institute in Accra, Ghana. She curated the 18th International Architecture Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia in 2023. Honored with an OBE by King Charles III in 2023, she received the 2020 RIBA Annie Spink Award and the Ada Louise Huxtable Award in 2021. She was the founder and director of the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg, is a trustee of the Architecture Foundation, and is a visiting professor at University College Dublin and the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL.

5.615800 / N 5° 36’ 56.88’’-0.181775 / W 0° 10’ 54.39’’