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GHANA

THINKTANK

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Maria del Carmen Montoya (she/her) and
    Christopher Robbins (he/him) are core artists and organizers
     

  • Their most recent work, The American Riad, partners with the Oakland Avenue Artist Coalition, the North End Woodward  Community Organization, Central Detroit Christian CDC, and Affirming Love Ministries Church, to bring the tradition of the Islamic Riad to address the housing crisis in the North End of Detroit
     

  • Not all of their works require large infrastructural change. Addressing a generation gap in Wales, they collected funny, dirty memories from the elderly, record them and played them to younger people to show that when old people were young, they weren’t that different from today’s generation
     

  • They recently participated in the artistic platform Ready by the Related Tactics in an exhibition on climate change shown at the Berkeley Arts Center and the Wexner Center for the Arts
     

  • They were a 2013 Creative Capital Awardee

THEMES

Anti-Racism, Black Lives Matter & Racial Inequality; Climate Change; Economic Disparity; Empathy; Equality & Equity; Global Systems, Trade, and Development; Immigration & Migration; Populism & Authoritarianism; Power & Privilege; Resilience, Wellness & Mental Health

Ghana ThinkTank is an international collective that “develops the first world” by asking the “third world” to intervene into the lives of the people living in so-called “developed” nations. In doing so, they work to undermine the traditional power dynamics of geopolitical relationships. It was founded in 2006 by Christopher Robbins, John Ewing and Matey Odonkor. Maria Del Carmen Montoya joined in 2009. The collective’s process involves gathering problems from communities throughout the US and Europe and bringing them to think tanks they create in “developing” communities. These think tanks include: a group of bike mechanics in Ghana; a rural radio station in El Salvador; Sudanese refugees seeking asylum in Israel; an artist collective in Iran; and a group of incarcerated girls in the Boston penal system. As the groups propose solutions, which are then implemented in the “first world,” the process helps people overcome their own stereotypes while being exposed to the stereotypes that other cultures have about them. Ghana ThinkTank’s innovative approach to public art reveals blind spots between otherwise disconnected cultures, challenges assumptions about who is in need and who is a position to aid, and ultimately turns the idea of expertise on its head. They have worked in Ghana, Cuba, and El Salvador, as well as Mexico, Iran, Serbia, Indonesia, Sudan and Morocco. Their work was recently featured in the Venice Biennial of Architecture, the National Museum of Wales, Hong Kong/Shenzhen Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism, and the Global Contemporary at ZKM in Germany, among others. They have received awards from The Knight Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and Creative Capital.

The emphasis on trained and studied expertise makes it impossible to see value in and activate the expertise of lived experience, which is as vital, if not more so, than anything we can learn otherwise.

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