Artwork: Wangechi Mutu
Art. Fashion. Photography. Design. Architecture. Sustainability. These are just a few of the majestic fields in which the diverse peoples of Africa excel, creating a new vision of life in the twenty-first century. Africa Rising: Fashion, Design and Lifestyle from Africa, edited by Design Indaba (Gestalten), is the ultimate source book for the continent that is on the cutting edge.
Forget what you think you know about the continent where human life began and see how it flourishes today under the masterful craftsmanship and artistry of some of its most proficient proponents of contemporary life. Africa Rising features Crave faves including Flurina Rothenberger, Adjaye Associates, Wangechi Mutu, Pieter Hugo, Cyrus Kabiru, Cristina de Middel, Tahir Carl Karmali, and Phyillis Galembo, among a host of visionaries leading the way.
The genius of the continent is in its sheer diversity, with an estimated 3,000 tribes to be found in 54 nations from sea to sea. Over the past fifty years, the nations of Africa are re-establishing their independence and sovereignty after centuries of genocide, slavery, pillage, and rape at the hands of Western imperialists. Though the destruction at the hands of foreign invaders accounts for tremendous loss, the spirit of the people perseveres in the genius of their work.
As the book explains, “Though still a young industry, design in Africa is thriving. Designers across the continent are embracing their African context, through both aesthetic and materials choices. Increasingly, Africans are using design to help solve Africa’s problems—which is much more effective than well-meaning (though often ill-considered) social design from the West…. African designers—across the fields of product, architecture, fashion, and art—are fearless, and undaunted by industry trends and what they prescribe. A true sense of place, people, and originality is present in their work.”
This is what makes their contributions so significant. They are authentic to their cultures, their histories, and their own individual sensibilities. They do not compete but rather lead by example. There is no aspiration to assimilate into either the East or the West, but rather to embrace all that is African in its vast and diverse complexities.
Consider the subversive sapeurs of the Republic of Congo, who step onto the streets nattily attired, standing in stark contrast with the hard elements of their environment. Gaze upon the Afronauts who tell the true story of Zambian scientist Edward Makuka Nkoloso, revealing that Afrofuturism is right at home in the center of the world. Enjoy the Samburu Warriors of the Rift Valley in Kenya, who preserve the brilliant traditions of their people.
With every turn of the page, Africa emerges anew, reminding many of us that this is just the tip of the iceberg, the crème de la crème, and that what lies beneath the surface is as rich as the land and its gems. The work featured in Africa Rising is a pleasure and a joy, an inspiration to the power of human imagination and our desire to make life better and more beautiful for all.
All artwork: From Africa Rising: Fashion, Design and Lifestyle from Africa, edited by Design Indaba (Gestalten)
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.