Making Africa – A Continent of Contemporary Design, on view at Germany’s Vitra Design Museum through Sept. 13, illustrates through the work of more than 120 artists and designers how design accompanies and fuels economic and political change in Africa.
Rather than pursuing a narrative of economic growth or an expanding middle class, the exhibition opens a discussion on how design creates a space for conversation in the 21st century. Through this lens, Africa is seen as a center of experimental approaches in design.
"Vigilism, Idumota Market, Lagos 2081A.D.," from the "Our Africa 2081A.D." series, illustration for the Ikiré Jones Heritage Menswear Collection, 2013. Courtesy of Olalekan and Walé Oyéjidé.
Access to an open platform for communication, through the wide-spread use of internet-capable mobile phones, has had a major influence on African a new generation of artists, thinkers, entrepreneurs and designers who are enfranchised to address a global platform as digital natives and thus provide a first-hand look at life on their continent from the inside. Works often cross multiple disciplines and break with art, photography, film, architecture and design conventions.
"Mame" by Omar Victor Diop, from the photo series "The Studio of Vanities," 2013. Courtesy of Magnin-A Gallery Paris.
Highlights include eyewear sculptures made by Kenyan artist Cyrus Kabiru and furniture by Cheick Diallo of Mali. Also featured is the architecture of Francis Kéré, David Adjaye and Kunlé Adeyemi and cardboard city models by Bodys Isek Kingelez. The objects of the exhibition address questions of material culture and everyday aesthetics, and demonstrate that design understood on an inclusive level, as it is in Africa, can produce innovative new approaches to design.
"Étoile Rouge Congolaise," Bodys Isek Kingelez, 1990. Courtesy of C.A.A.C. - The Pigozzi Collection, Geneva.
Making Africa was developed over a two-year research period involving many think tanks and interviews of some 70 designers, artists, researches, architects, gallerists and curators. The process resulted in a unique archive of primary research on African design, and the first-ever comprehensive overview of African contemporary design. The exhibition was curated by Amelie Klein of the Vitra Design Museum, with Okwui Enwezor, director of Haus der Kunst in Munich consulting. Following its installation at Vitra Design Museum, the exhibition will be shown at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.
"Alito, The Guy with Style," by Mário Macilau, from the 'Moments of Transition" photo series, 2013. Courtesy of Ed Cross Fine Art Ltd, London.