Image Credit: Ayana Zaire Cotton.

Ginkgo Creative Residency 2021

By Magdalena Obmalko

In the lab and removed from the ecological context of biology, what meanings are lost, what meanings are created? What other ways exist of crafting language and, therefore, outcomes in synthetic biology?

We are thrilled to welcome Ayana Zaire Cotton as Ginkgo’s 2021 Creative Resident, who in the next three months will work closely with our team at Faber Futures, the Ginkgo’s creative team as well as this year’s brilliant external jury, Sasha Stiles, Beth Semel and Jane Calvert, to explore the theme of meaning.

Ayana Zaire Cotton is a non-binary, neurodivergent artist, writer and software engineer living in Dawn, Virginia, USA — understanding there is more that binds these disciplines than separates them, they can best be described as a weaver engaged in a practice of “Sankofa Narration”. Sankofa is a word and symbol of Ghana’s Akan Twi and Fante languages, which translates to “go back and get”. Centring a Sankofa sensibility, today they build databases as vessels holding seed data and experiment with shuffling algorithms to spin non-linear narratives to build new stories (worlds) from the “digital waste” of our existing one.

Daily Seed Zine by Ayana Zaire Cotton.
Daily Seed Zine by Ayana Zaire Cotton.

As the 5th iteration of the Ginkgo Creative Residency explores the notion of language and metaphor shaping the field of synthetic biology, Ayana will continue their practice of reverence, remembrance, and worldbuilding using language. Building on their experience constructing generative databases as well as themes identified in their recent body of research titled “Crafting Care: The Spiritual Poetics of Design, Computation, and Abolition”, Ayana will collect layers of meaning from the Ginkgo lab and algorithmically weave them into three short stories bringing us into the mythology of Cykofa.


We are looking forward to the outcomes of Ayana’s time at Ginkgo Residency! In the meantime, will be sharing updates across our social media channels and the Ginkgo Creative Residency’s Instagram. Stay tuned!

More information on the Ginkgo Creative Residency can be found here.

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