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Larry Achiampong, Dualities, 2021

What did you take away from last year?

I think one of the biggest things that I’ve taken away from the last year more than anything is the importance of trying to be still. Trying to be still enough to take in the moments of time that surround us. How we live. The question of how we want to live. And what we want for others as well as for ourselves. I no longer live in London and so living in Purfleet in Essex, where it’s very quiet, everything is much slower. And I’ve certainly appreciated where certain things have slowed down due to the virus. Those moments to simply think. It’s definitely given me food for thought even as to how and where things go from now for me. With my own trajectory. My own career. But also my life. The way that I spend time with my family. The way that I spend time with my children. What we do, you know, week in and week out.

I think, you know, again I can’t stress it enough, you know, the importance of the preciousness of life. It’s literally here today and its won’t be there tomorrow. So, I feel like every day I wake up every day, I’m asking myself: what are you going to do today? What’s happening today? And are you going to appreciate that glass of water like it’s the most incredible glass of water you’ve ever tasted? These kinds of things, I guess, this kind of philosophy I try to approach with my work as well. Every time I make new work it’s the last work I’m going to make because I don’t if beyond that I’m going to be alive. You know some might consider that a Macabre way of thinking. I’m not, kind of, trying to invite death. Death is inevitable. What I’m trying to appreciate is that these moments that we have are ephemeral. So it’s important that we cherish them. We cherish them as strongly as possible, wherever it is in life that we go or death for that matter. And you know legacy is very important with regards to that. The legacies that we leave.

Larry Achiampong, Sanko-time, 2020, Two audio artworks

Sanko-time is an audio work by British-Ghanaian artist, Larry Achiampong, commissioned by The Line. This site-specific piece has been composed to accompany the 20-minute round-trip on the Emirates Air Line cable car from Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Docks, reflecting on the historical context of the River Thames during the journey across the water. As the work is hosted online, it can also be enjoyed from anywhere in the world. Please note that listening through headphones provides the best audio experience.

Sanko-time is a concept developed by the artist that relates to the Ghanaian Twi word Sankofa, which roughly translates as ‘to go back for what has been left behind’ and alludes to using the past to prepare for the future. This site-specific work responds to the indelibility of the historical British Empire on the areas local to The Line. Incorporating oral histories from the Museum of London’s sound collection, field recordings from London and Accra and audio recorded during workshops with primary school children from St Mary Magdalene C of E School in Greenwich, Sanko-time takes the listener through a rich soundscape connected by the Greenwich Meridian.

Threaded with a powerful narrative about the legacy of colonialism from Achiampong, Sanko-time is a hypnotic synthesis of poetry, field recordings and music, including drum loops by the late Tony Allen an Afrobeat pioneer who brought together elements of Ghanaian Highlife and Jazz. The work is infused with the sounds and rhythms of Accra and London, including the lapping waves of Jamestown (the fishing harbour in Accra) and the water of the Royal Docks, as well as the street sounds of Accra’s Makola Market. The tides and empires explored in Sanko-time rise and fall to reveal the imprints of histories and the colonial past in our present.

Sanko-time is composed by Larry Achiampong and features the following audio sources:

Jamestown Fishing Harbour (Accra, Ghana, courtesy JustGhana: Asher S. Obeng-Asomani and Godfred Amponsah)

Makola Market (Accra, Ghana, courtesy JustGhana: Asher S. Obeng-Asomani and Godfred Amponsah)

Traditional Drumming (Accra, Ghana, courtesy JustGhana: Asher S. Obeng-Asomani and Godfred Amponsah)

Drum Loops by Tony Allen, who pioneered Afrobeat, by bringing together elements of Highlife (Ghanaian sound) and Jazz

Water recordings at Royal Docks and River Thames (London, courtesy Larry Achiampong)

Audio sample from school children at St Mary Magdalene School on Greenwich Peninsula, recorded during a workshop developed by The Line inspired by Larry Achiampong’s work

Excerpts from the Museum of London Oral History Collection: Windrush Conversations. Museum of London Oral History Collection © Greater London Authority Community Engagement Team and interview with Steve Mitchell, Museum of London Oral History Collection © Museum of London