A major exhibition by the Vitra Design Museum in spring 2015 sheds new light on contemporary design in Africa. On the basis of a wide variety of examples, Making Africa hows how design is accompanying – and even promoting – economic and political change on the continent and engaging in a close dialogue with related disciplines, such as the fine arts, graphic design, illustration, film, photography, architecture and urban planning. A central role is played by the new media, which made this shift in perspective possible in the first place. »Making Africa« is developed together with the internationally renowned curator Okwui Enwezor and supported by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Federal Cultural Foundation). The exhibition features the objects of Cheik Diallo, eyewear sculptures by Cyrus Kabiru, the photographs of Mário Macilau and Okhai Ojeikere, the architecture of Francis Kéré, the animation art of Robin Rhode and many other creations of designers from different disciplines.
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 selfconfidence that largely dissipated over the following decades. These historical documents run through the entire exhibition where they are systematically paired with contemporary works. These comparisons demonstrate how the young generation often consciously refers to this early body of work and creates a link to the positive sentiment of this past era.
An especially distinctive feature of the exhibition is its development process. Over 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 of primary research material on African design was compiled, which further supports and enriches the exhibition and its accompanying catalogue.
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.