Art on the Underground presented an ambitious public commission by British Ghanaian artist Larry Achiampong, which re-imagined London Underground’s iconic roundel, for Westminster Underground station from November 2019 – February 2020.
As part of the artist’s on-going multi-disciplinary and multi-site project ‘Relic Traveller’, Achiampong interrupted the traditional red and blue logo that since 1908 has been synonymous with the Underground and London. The commission sought to consider the possibilities of alternate histories and formed part of Art on the Underground’s 2019 programme which looked at the role artists can play in forming ideas of togetherness and belonging.
For this commission, the artist was invited to re-imagine the logo’s design. Achiampong chose to focus on Pan African colours that speak symbolically to various African diasporic identities: green, black, and red, which reflect the land, the people and the struggles the continent has endured, while gold represents a new day and prosperity. Eight new designs of the roundel were installed in seventy sites throughout Westminster Underground station.
Based in science fiction and traditional Adinkra symbolism, Achiampong’s roundel redesign built on the artist’s concept of sanko-time, a theory at the core of his recent practice. Sanko-time is based in the Ashanti word “sankofa”, which roughly translated, means to go back for what has been left behind. “Sankofa” also alludes to using the past to prepare for the future; the wish of being able to go back to an immutable point to make sure that what has been lost is not lost any longer. The project, as a result, opened narratives regarding African mythologies and their relationship to science fiction.
Achiampong’s work with Art on the Underground provided an opportunity to explore imaginations and a sense of connectedness between the African diaspora, and to reconsider their often forgotten or erased contributions to the city.