The exhibition showcases the work of over 120 African artists and creators and illustrates how design fuels economic and political changes. Making Africa speaks, from Africa, of a new continent “under construction” and places emphasis on its possibilities over its problems.
“Thinking about the future means thinking about our possibilities in the world. The future belongs to Africa, because it seems to have happened everywhere else already.”
Okwui Enwezor, Consulting Curator of Making Africa
The exhibition offers a new tale of Africa, an invitation to value the continent from a brand new perspective. Many of the major African capitals are seeing the consolidation of a generation that, around culture and through creation and design, is defending its right to build itself in freedom, without foreign tutelage and contradicting the stereotypes projected from the West.
A new generation of creators
Making Africa exhibits the projects of artists and designers originating from and often working in Africa who are addressing a global audience and providing the world with a new perspective of their continent. They often work in various disciplines simultaneously and break with the conventional definitions of design, art, photography, architecture and film.
The new media are playing a central role and initially they made this change of perspective possible. Often produced by collectives and within an urban context, the works showcased in Making Africa connect the digital revolution with analog existence. They focus more on the process than the result. They interpret materials in a radically new way. They assume their responsibility with relation to society rather than with relation to the markets and make bold forecasts regarding the future.
Dialogue between diverse artistic disciplines
Making Africa shows works from diverse creative areas: design of objects and furniture, the graphic arts, illustration, fashion, architecture, urban planning, art, crafts, film and photography, in addition to digital and analog focuses.
Conceived to contribute a new vision of contemporary African design, Making Africa presents works such as the eyewear sculpture of Kenyan artist Cyrus Kabiru, the furniture of Malian designer Cheick Diallo and the photographs of Mário Macilau, from Mozambique, and J.D. 'Okhai Ojeikere, from Nigeria.
The architecture of Francis Kéré, David Adjaye and Kunle Adeyemi and the extraordinary cardboard city models of Bodys Isek Kingelez along with the animation art of Robin Rhode, a South African based in Berlin, also feature in the exhibition.
All of the works presented are underpinned by a quest to address questions of material culture and everyday aesthetics – in short, questions of design. The objects demonstrate how design in Africa is understood on a much more inclusive level than in Western societies and they are proof that this understanding can produce innovative new approaches.
From the post-colonial era to the works of young contemporary artists
In the 1960s, photographers such as Seydou Keita and Malick Sidibé, or the South African magazine Drum, showed a continent beyond its wars, crises and catastrophes. The architecture produced during the initial years of independence also embodies the emergence of a new era of self-confidence that largely dissipated over the following decades. These historical documents run throughout the entire exhibition paired with contemporary works, showing how the younger generations have often consciously referred to the earlier body of work, creating a link with the positive sentiment of this past era.
The making of Making Africa
One of the distinctive features of the exhibition is its development process. During a two-year research period, numerous think tanks and interviews were held in major African cities, such as Lagos, Dakar, Cape Town, Cairo and Nairobi. During these sessions, some 70 designers, artists, researchers, architects, gallerists and curators were consulted. In the process, a unique resource on African design was compiled, which supports and enriches the exhibition and its accompanying catalogue.
Amelie Klein, specialist in contemporary design at the Vitra Design Museum is the exhibition’s curator and Okwui Enwezor, director of the Haus der Kunst in Muhich and curator of the 56th Venice Biennale 2015, is its consulting curator. The exhibition also has an advisory committee made up of nine experts from different cities around the world such as Cape Town, Lagos, Dakar, London or Nairobi, among others.
Making Africa has been co-produced by the Vitra Design Museum (where it was shown from 14 March to 13 September 2015) and the Guggenheim Bilbao (presented from 30 October to 21 February 2016), with the collaboration of Kulturstiftung des Bundes and the Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne.