Continental Culture

Austin's Blanton Museum surveys the state of African design

Ikiré Jones Our Africa 2081 A.D., 2014. Idumota Market, Lagos 2081 A.D. (Courtesy Making Africa)

Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design, an upcoming exhibition at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas, takes a broad look at the state of design across Africa. Rather than trying to catalog every aesthetic movement across a land mass of over one billion people and dozens of countries, the show instead focuses on designers and artists who are challenging negative narratives about the continent.

The show’s curators have taken the position that the region is a contemporary hotbed of architecture and design, one that mixes cultures and influences to create optimistic ideas about the future. The show mixes photography, furniture, and a range of other media to explore a rich and expansive cultural mood.

Bibi Seck's Taboo furniture

Bibi Seck’s Taboo furniture (Courtesy Making Africa)

The show is divided into four sections. The first, Prologue, attempts to “provide counter-narratives that challenge preconceived notions of the continent,” according to a statement from the museum. Through imaginary maps and reworked Renaissance paintings, artists imagine alternative histories for the continent and rework traditional imagery.

The next category, I and We, looks at personal style and the fashioning of subcultures. Space and Object tackles the continent’s architecture and urbanism, bringing up the work of familiar names like David Adjaye and Diébédo Francis Kéré. Finally, the show collects work that reflect on Africa’s colonial past and its lasting impact in Origin and Future.

Malian artist Cheick Diallo’s Sansa armchair made from metal, nylon, and cords

Malian artist Cheick Diallo’s Sansa armchair made from metal, nylon, and cords

For those interested who cannot make it to Austin, the show’s website collects much of the work on view and supplements it with interviews and added information. The show was created by the Vitra Design Musem and the Guggenheim Bilbao and was previously on view in the U.S. at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art and the Albuquerque Museum.

Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design
Blanton Museum of Art
Austin, Texas
October 14, 2018, to January 6, 2019

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