Bibi Seck, Taboo stool. Photo: Bibi Seck.
PrÃ³ximo Futuro/Next Future is the Gulbenkian Foundation‘s programme of contemporary culture dedicated in particular, but not exclusively, to research and creation in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Africa. Issue number 6 of their newspaper is now available online, and within it the essay I contributed exploring contemporary African design, titled “It’s African Time” in homage to Heath Nash’s fabulousÂ piece. Here is a small excerpt of the Portuguese originalâ€”English translation after the jump:
Caracterizar o momento actual do design em Ãfrica pode parecer, Ã partida, um esforÃ§o fÃºtil. Este Ã© ainda o continente onde a maioria da populaÃ§Ã£o continua a ter como preocupaÃ§Ã£o maior arranjar uma refeiÃ§Ã£o ao final do dia e onde 53 paÃses â€” em breve 54 â€” diversos em populaÃ§Ã£o, tradiÃ§Ãµes e cultura continuam a ser demasiadas vezes rotulados sob uma designaÃ§Ã£o genÃ©rica. Mas o design contemporÃ¢neo existe, de maneira mais ou menos visÃvel, e estÃ¡ em todo o lado, partilhando traÃ§os comuns em naÃ§Ãµes africanas distintas. O fascÃnio recente que os cÃrculos de design ocidentais tÃªm por Ãfrica Ã© apenas mais um capÃtulo numa relaÃ§Ã£o com altos e baixos. Esse fascÃnio desdobra-se hoje em duas narrativas distintas, que encarnam duas maneiras essencialmente diferentes de olhar para a criaÃ§Ã£o e produÃ§Ã£o de design em Ãfrica. A primeira Ã© a mais linear e glamorosa, e ocorre sobretudo no mundo exclusivo e limitado do design de luxo. A segunda Ã© fragmentada e menos Ã³bvia, mas infinitamente mais promissora.
Attempting to characterise the current state of the art of design in Africa may seem from the outset to be a futile task. This is still the continent where the main concern of most of its population continues to be that of trying to find a meal by the end of the day, and where 53 countriesâ€”soon to be 54â€”, so different in their population, traditions and culture, all too frequently continue to be lumped together under one generic title. But there is contemporary design to be found there. Although it has varying degrees of visibility, it is, in fact, to be found everywhere, with a number of features being shared in common by quite distinct African nations. The recent fascination that the various circles of western design have shown for Africa is just one more chapter in a relationship that has been peppered with ups and downs. This fascination can today be split into two distinct narratives, embodying two essentially different ways of looking at the creation and production of design in Africa. The first of these narratives is the more linear and glamorous of the two, taking place above all in the exclusive and limited world of luxury design. The second narrative is fragmented and less obvious, but infinitely more promising.
Read the entire piece at PrÃ³ximo Futuro/Next Future!