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Unseen Guests Post-National Digital Pavilion

Open Call Unseen Guests – Open Call for Writers

28 Feb-27 Mar 2024

iniva is pleased to announce an open call for writing commissions as part of Unseen Guests - Post-National Digital Pavilion. This opportunity is open to writers based in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

iniva is pleased to announce an open call for writing commissions as part of Unseen Guests – Post-National Digital Pavilion. This opportunity is open to writers based in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The panel will select two writers – one writer based in the UK and one writer based in SSA.

Selected writers will develop a writing piece which will be hosted on the Digital Pavilion alongside other audio and film commissions, and engage in the digital public programme curated by Renée Akitelek Mboya.

We are particularly interested in working with writers whose practices are informed by anticolonial methodologies, Pan-African thinking, climate justice, and archival research, and who are willing to work in collaboration with others. 

Project Brief

Unseen Guests is the second edition of iniva’s Post-National Digital Pavilion Programme. The Pavilion is a series of radical re-imaginings of nationhood, reflecting on the entanglement between land and water, movement and m/otherlands, in the forging of new identities and subjectivities. 

Between April and November 2024, Unseen Guests proposes investigations alongside Pan-African cultural archives across the UK and SSA, focusing on documentations of anticolonial events and testimonies of climate change. Unseen Guests will commission eight artists based in the UK and SSA, working across new media, audiovisual and writing to create new works in response to the work of filmmaker and artist John Akomfrah, representing Great Britain at the 60th edition of the Venice Biennale.

The project draws inspiration from recurring themes in John Akomfrah’s practice. Four commissioned short films selected as part of the process will be hosted on a microsite (‘digital pavilion’) including archival material from Stuart Hall Library and iniva’s archive, alongside two new commissioned writings and one commissioned soundscape.

“I’m interested in the way that unseen guests arrive at parties, and become actually quite prominent party members, becoming central actors in the ongoing proceedings” — John Akomfrah

Experimenting with elements that may not have been recognisable as significant, Unseen Guests will commission films exploring documentation and evidence from cultural archives to identify connecting tissues between different narratives. Working in partnership with cultural archives across the UK and SSA, including iniva’s archive and Stuart Hall Library, the commissioned practitioners will investigate histories embedded in landscapes and explore their relationships with present issues, utilising archival material to communicate ideas around anticolonial resistance and environmental justice.  

Two writers (one UK-based and one SSA-based) will be selected through an open call to write texts reflecting on the project’s research, and conversations with selected artists. The writers will also have an opportunity to contribute to the digital public programme. The commissioned texts aim to expand the formats in which audiences can access the project, while the process is focused on dialogue between writers and artists. They are designed to ensure the ongoing dissemination of the project in a digital format within the Stuart Hall Library digital collection, extending beyond the conclusion of the digital pavilion. Serving as a lasting legacy for the Stuart Hall Library, contributors, and partner archives, it informs future research endeavours and broadens access to archival materials.

Unseen Guests emphasises collaboration between artists, curators and writers. The public programme, which will be curated by Renée Akitelek Mboya, aims to promote dialogue through Pan-African thinking, inviting participant artists and guests to discuss and explore the potential of archival materials selected as part of the project, giving international visibility to the material and offering a range of perspectives on what kind of stories it can tell. 

The Study Day in Venice serves as a unique and invaluable occasion for artists and curators from SSAs and the UK to come together and engage in discussions. It provides a dedicated platform for participants to delve into a collaborative reflection and investigation of John Akomfrah’s commissioned work at the British Pavilion as well as to approach the wider context of the Venice Biennale, exploring broader themes of anticolonialism and climate justice within the context of the Biennale. 

By facilitating conversations that bridge diverse perspectives, the Study Day becomes a catalyst for forging lasting connections and networks, while fostering future collaborations within and beyond the project – becoming a nexus for the exchange of ideas that can potentially contribute to a more inclusive and globally informed discourses around cultural archives, anticolonialism, and climate justice.


  • Deadline for applications – 27 March 2024 at 12pm (GMT)
  • Selected artists will be informed by 5 April 2024
  • Research trip to Venice – 20 – 25 May 2024 
  • Deadline to submit writing contribution – w/c 22 July 2024
  • Unseen Guests continues until the end of November 2024

Writers Commission Fee

  • The writers will receive a fee of £1,000 each.
  • Writers will have the opportunity to go on a research trip to the 60th Venice Biennale 20-25 May 2024. Travel, accommodation, and per diem will be covered.

Details on the commissioned piece

The commissioned text can be submitted in the writer’s native language as long as the writer can also provide translation in English. Please note that iniva is only able to offer editorial support in English.

We don’t prescribe a specific writing style, whether it’s an academic essay, journalistic report, or employs creative structures, as long as it maintains accessible language and coherence.

While there is no word stipulation, we anticipate a contribution around 1,000 words.

Although the Digital Pavilion closes in November 2024, the writings will continue to be available through iniva’s archive, housed at the Stuart Hall Library.


  • Based in the UK or Sub-Saharan Africa*.
  • Capable of articulating how this opportunity will benefit their practice.
  • Proven track of working in collaboration with others.
  • Pre-existing research in at least one of the three broad themes of the project – anticolonial methodologies, climate justice and archives.
  • Available and willing to travel.

*List of countries in SSA: https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/pages/focus-sub-saharan-africa 

How to apply

Submit your application via the form below by Wednesday 27 March 2024 at 12pm (GMT). We strongly encourage you to carefully read the project brief before applying. 

Application form for UK-based writers

Application form for SSA-based writers


If you have any accessibility requirements, please get in touch with iniva’s Curator Beatriz Lobo – beatriz@iniva.org 

Unseen Guests is supported by the British Council.