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Making Africa A Continent of Contemporary Design

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In a large exhibition, the Vitra Design Museum moves from March 2015, the contemporary African design in a new light. “Making Africa – A Continent of Contemporary Design” shows based on the works of over 120 artists and designers, such as design accompanies the economic and political changes in the continent and promoting. It presents Africa as a testing ground, going from which new approaches and solutions in the world -. And as the driving force for a new discussion about what can make design in the 21st

century, when the media report on “African boom”, it often goes to rapid economic growth or a rapidly expanding middle class – phenomena that will produce a profound change in the continent over the coming decades. However, another development has already the daily life of all Africans fundamentally changed and also characterizes the work of designers and artists: Today there are 650 million registered mobile phones in Africa, more than in Europe or in the US. Many of these devices have Internet access and thus create a platform for communication and exchange of information. This gateway to the world has the change of perspective enables the in the center of the exhibition “Making Africa – A Continent is of Contemporary Design”.


The exhibition focuses its attention consequently a new generation of African entrepreneurs, thinkers and creators. As a “digital natives”, they appeal to a global audience and set the rest of the world a new perspective on Africa close. They often work in multiple disciplines and break with traditional – often dominated by western perspectives – Definitions of design, art, photography, architecture or film. “Making Africa” ​​presents a variety of works in different media, such as the spectacle of sculptures Kenyan artist Cyrus Kabiru, the furniture designer Cheick Diallo of Mali and the photographs of Mário Macilau from Mozambique and JD Okhai Ojeikere from Nigeria. It shows the architecture of Francis Kéré, David Adjaye and Kunle Adeyemi, the striking city models made ​​of cardboard from bodys isek kingelez, or the animated short films by the Berlin South African Robin Rhode. What unites all these works is the fact that they are issues of material culture and everyday aesthetics – in short – broach the designs. They show that design in Africa is meant much more extensive than in Western cultures – and how just this understanding brings pioneering design approaches.

A cultural and historical foundation receives the exhibition by numerous flashbacks to the early post-colonial Africa, as early as the 1960s showed photographers like Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé, or the South African magazine “Drum” a continent beyond wars, crises and disasters.


The architecture that emerged in many countries during the first years of independence, symbolized this departure and a self-confidence that was lost in the following decades, Historical Documents from this era pervade the entire exhibition and will be compared with the contemporary works. It is clear that today’s generation often deliberately linked to the creation of an era, the spirit of optimism with the present time is comparable. A special feature of the exhibition is its development process. In the two-year research phase were held numerous think tanks and interviews in African cities such as Lagos, Dakar, Cape Town, Cairo and Nairobi, where about 70 designers, artists, scientists, architects, gallery owners and curators have been consulted. In this way, a hitherto unique amount of source material to design in Africa has been compiled, which enriches the exhibition and the accompanying catalog in the form of interviews and texts.

The exhibition was curated by Amelie Klein, curator of the Vitra Design Museum. Advisory curator Okwui Enwezor, director of the Haus der Kunst in Munich, and Director of the 56th Biennale di Venezia in 2015. Following the first presentation in the Vitra Design Museum, the exhibition in autumn 2015 at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao will be shown.

“Making Africa ‘ is accompanied by an extensive, 352-page publication, the first time provides a comprehensive overview of the design of the presence on the African continent. It takes Okwui Enwezor with a glossary redefining-honored design concepts before, Koyo Kouoh explores the theme of social design, further contributions are an interview with the renowned urban researcher Edgar Pieterse, co-founder, the African Centre for Cities in Cape Town, as well as an interview to the object and Material culture of Africa with Mugendi M’Rithaa, design professor at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. A second part presents all the works shown in the exhibition in a detailed object directory and summarizes many of the guided interviews for the exhibition together.



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Making Africa A Continent of Contemporary Design

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