With “Making Africa – A Continent of Contemporary Design”, the Vitra Design Museum sheds new light on contemporary African design. Showcasing the work of over 120 artists and designers, the exhibition illustrates how design accompanies and fuels economic and political change on the continent. 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.

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” is divided into four parts. Over the course of the exhibition, this website will feature works and artists from the exhibition under the archive page Objects & Artists. The first part, Prologue, is concerned with the western preconception of Africa, but also poses a number of questions, such as who speaks about the continent, and how? The second part, I and We, explores how design provides an effective tool to communicate about ourselves, and thus portrays current and past social and cultural developments in Africa. The third part, Space and Object, is dedicated to the individual and their immediate environment, the city, where technological developments and materials play equal parts in this space. The fourth and final section, Origin and Future, explores contemporary African culture and its roots through objects and artifacts.

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 centre of “Making Africa – A Continent of Contemporary Design”.

  • (c) Vitra Design Museum, Mark Niedermann