The Vitra Design Museum -- which was designed by Frank Gehry -- in Weil am Rhein, Germany is preparing for the debut of two exhibitions that will showcase the rich histories rooted in the African modernism movement and the burgeoning contemporary design scene in the African continent.
The first exhibition, "Architecture of Independence", documents more than 80 buildings in Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Senegal, and Zambia. Opening this Friday, February 20, the exhibition tells how each country used futuristic architecture and design to express their developing identities as independent nations. The exhibition also features photographic compositions from Iwan Baan.
"Making Africa – A Continent of Contemporary Design" will feature the works of over 120 artists and designers that illustrate the role of design in propelling economic and political change throughout the Africa. "Making Africa" opens its doors on March 14.
More details below.
"Architecture of Independence - African Modernism"
"The exhibition in the Vitra Design Museum Gallery is one of the first presentations of this remarkable period of more recent architectural history. Curated by architect and author Manuel Herz, with substantial contribution by photographer Iwan Baan, the exhibition documents more than 80 buildings in five countries; Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire, Zambia,Ghana and Senegal."
"When many countries in Central and Sub-Saharan Africa gained their independence in the 1960s, experimental and futuristic architecture became a principal means by which the young nations expressed their national identities."
"The often heroic and daring designs of parliament buildings, central banks, stadiums, conference centers, universities and independence memorials mirror the forward-looking spirit that was dominant in these countries at the time."
"However, this architecture also represents the difficulties, contradictions and dilemmas that the young nations experienced in their independence process, as building designs and architects were often imported from foreign countries, if not from one of the former colonial powers."
"On the basis of the projects shown, the exhibition traces the relationship between the architectural production of the countries named above and their individual nation-building processes."
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"Making Africa – A Continent of Contemporary Design"
"Africa is presented as a hub of experimentation generating new approaches and solutions of worldwide relevance – and as a driving force for a new discussion of the potential of design in the twenty-first century. When the 'African boom' comes up in the media, the reports tend to focus on the continent’s fast-paced economic growth or the rapidly expanding middle class – phenomena that will remain at the root of fundamental changes in coming decades."
"However, another development has already altered the everyday lives of all Africans and yields a significant influence upon the work of artists and designers. At present, there are already 650 million registered mobile phones in Africa, more than in Europe or the US. Many of these devices have access to the Internet and thus create a platform for communication and the exchange of information."
"This portal to the world has enabled the shift in perspective that lies at the center of 'Making Africa – A Continent of Contemporary Design'. The exhibition focuses on a new generation of entrepreneurs, thinkers and designers from and within Africa, who – as 'digital natives' – address a global audience and provide the world with a new vantage point on their continent. They often work across several disciplines simultaneously and break with conventional definitions of design, art, photography, architecture and film."
"Making Africa features a plethora of work cutting across a wide variety of media, the architecture of Francis Kéré, David Adjaye and Kunlé Adeyemi, remarkable cardboard city models by Bodys Isek Kingelez and animation art by Robin Rhode, a South African based in Berlin. 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 show that 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 to design."
"The cultural and historical foundations of 'Making Africa' come from a retrospective look at early postcolonial Africa. Back in the 1960s, photographers such as Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé or the South African magazine 'Drum' showed a continent beyond wars, crises and catastrophes. The architecture produced during those initial years of independence also epitomizes the emergence of a new era of self-confidence that largely dissipated over the following decades."
"The exhibition was curated by Amelie Klein, Curator at the Vitra Design Museum. Consulting Curator was Okwui Enwezor, Director of Haus der Kunst in Munich and Director of the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015. Following its premiere at the Vitra Design Museum, the exhibition will be presented at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao from autumn 2015."
More info here.
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