Exhibition of contemporary African design reflects a changing continent
Too often, she says, shows on African design have concentrated on humanitarian, craft or ethnographic aspects as seen from a European, rather than an African perspective. By drawing on the views of 70 African designers, artists, gallerists, architects and curators, Klein hopes to avoid this, and in doing so stay well clear of widely held and limiting prejudices of Africa as a failed continent defined only by war, famine and crises.
‘Africa is in change – politically, economically, culturally, socially and technologically. We want to look at how design could and should promote and accelerate this change,’ she says, pointing to the rapid pace of urbanisation and the huge uptake in the use of mobile technology – 650 million Africans now have mobile phones, many allowing a new global connection via internet access.
The exhibition sets out and challenges preconceptions of what African design is, exploring the contemporary pieces with reference to the optimism of the early post-colonial era.
Featuring work by more than 120 artists and designers, Making Africa looks at how this new generation of creatives is celebrating African culture, often working across several disciplines rather than being confined by conventional creative definitions.
'It’s interesting to have a generation of people who couldn’t care less about our perception of Africa in the West. They have a freer relationship to colonial history,' Klein says.
As well as being multi-disciplinary, much of the work shown is characterised by its collaborative and entrepreneurial nature, often produced by an informal maker scene rather than a formal design sector.
Architectural exhibits such as the work of Francis Kéré, David Adjaye and Kunlé Adeyemi are not restricted to buildings in the education, health or humanitarian sectors but include museums and private residential designs.
After the Vitra am Rhein exhibition, the show will tour – Klein would dearly love to see it travel to Africa.
Making Africa – A Continent of Contemporary Design
Until 13 September 2015, Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, 30 October 2015 – 21 February 2016
Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, 22 March – 31 July 2016