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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 the inaugural Listen to The Line commission and is funded by Trinity Buoy Wharf Trust and supported by Emirates Air Line and the Royal Docks Team. Signage in the Emirates Air Line terminals and inside the cable car pods includes the image of Achiampong’s new flag What I Hear I Keep, which has been commissioned by De La Warr Pavilion (2020).

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

Please be aware that Sanko-time reflects on lived experiences of discrimination and systemic racism which may be upsetting to some listeners.

The Line has developed learning resources for schools to accompany this work.

Supported by


Larry Achiampong’s solo and collaborative projects employ imagery, aural and visual archives, live performance and sound to explore ideas surrounding class, cross-cultural and post-digital identity.  His work examines his communal and personal heritage – in particular, the intersection between pop culture and the postcolonial position, seeking to reveal the entrenched socio-political contradictions in contemporary society.

Achiampong has worked on commissions, residencies  and exhibitions with major institutions both in the UK and internationally including Tate, the Venice and Singapore Biennales,  Somerset House and Art on the Underground (his commission for Westminster Station, Pan African Flags for the Relic Travellers’ Alliance, was installed until February 2020). Achiampong currently serves on the Board of Trustees at Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts) and was a 2019 recipient of the Paul Hamlyn Award for Artists and awarded the Stanley Picker Fellowship in 2020.

What I Hear I Keep (commissioned by De La Warr Pavilion © 2020 Larry Achiampong. Courtesy of the Artist and Copperfield London)

Greenwich to Royal Docks
Royal Docks to Greenwich

Watch Larry Achiampong introduce Sanko-time