Milan 2013: Congolese music performed with mobile phones, carpentry workshops making fantasy coffins and a photo-documentary inspired by the failed Zambian space programme are all part of an exhibition of African design and culture in a Milanese department store next week (+ slideshow).
Above and below: Cristina de Middel's photo-documentary series about the failed Zambian space mission
Curated by London-based writer and critic Beatrice Galilee, who last year organised an exhibition about hacking in the same location, Afrofuture explores the past, present and future of design, architecture, art, music and politics across the continent.
The shop windows of La Rinascente, a department store in Milan's Piazza del Duomo, will display three-dimensional panels by London-based illustrator Emily Forgot inspired by covers of the "African pulp fiction" magazine Jungle Jim.
Above: illustrated shop windows by Emily Forgot
Inside the store, visitors will be able to illustrate their own Jungle Jim story as it's written by a team of African writers in different locations around the world, while a live newsroom will report on China's increasing influence on Africa.
Above: Jungle Jim science fiction magazine cover
A carpentry workshop will introduce visitors to the "fantasy coffins" of Ghana, bespoke creations that famously resemble everyday animals and objects such as fish, cars and shoes, and design magazine Domus will host a workshop to design and build a model for a bridge between Europe and Africa.
Above: Ghanaian coffins
Designer Cyrus Nganga will use Arduino electronics controllers to create a digital version of his "C-stunner" glasses made from discarded objects, and a stage will be covered in Angolan fabrics and graphic decorations for a performance of Portugese and Angolan music.
Above: proposal for a bridge linking Europe and Africa
A photo-documentary series by Cristina de Middel will look back at Zambia's unsuccessful attempt to launch a space programme in the 1960s, while sound artists Mark McKeague and Yuri Suzuki will conduct an orchestra of Congolese musicians using mobile phone technology.
Above: mask for a stage set for performance of Portugese and Angolan music organised by architect Paulo Moreira
Talks and debates will feature speakers from the worlds of architecture, design, art and technology, including Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi, Design Indaba expo manager Kelly Berman, and Jennifer Wolfe, design director of Maker Faire Africa, an organisation that champions African manufacturing.
Above and below: glasses made from found objects by Cyrus Nganga
Afrofuture will be open at La Rinascente, Piazza del Duomo, from 9 to 12 April – see our earlier post about the store's womenswear department designed by Nendo and see all news and products from Milan 2013.
Last month we visited Design Indaba in Cape Town, South Africa, as part of Dezeen and MINI World Tour, where architect David Adjaye explained in a filmed interview why the continent represents a huge opportunity for architects and designers – see all our reports from Cape Town and more news and projects from Africa.
Above: chair designed by Yinka Ilori
Here's more information from Afrofuture:
La Rinascente presents a futuristic Africa
Tech-charged, idea-fuelled, space-obsessed. Forget what you know about Africa, the world's second-largest continent is journeying to new frontiers. This Milan Design Week, adventure with la Rinascente into an Afrofuturist design culture.
La Rinascente's flagship store will be celebrating the world's original design festival Salone del Mobile in dynamic style for 2013 as it presents 'Afrofuture'. Through media, events and performance, la Rinascente will demonstrate the exciting mind-shift in African technology and how it's radically shaping new notions of design. From South Africa's Fablabs to Kenya's 'Silicon savannah', the tech boom in Africa is a certainty. Africa's digital diaspora has elbowed its way into the Afropolitan conversation, but there's a newer narrative emerging – African design. The continent is developing on its own terms, with savvy innovators emerging from the creative quarter and rebranding their urban spaces. It's moving away from visual clichés and forging experimental collaborations with technologists, writers, musicians, photographers, illustrators, architects, coders, developers and cultural commentators. This is a movement that's modifying Africa's past and present and bringing it into the future.
This design week, la Rinascente will show festival-goers how Africa's newest makers, thinkers and dreamers are being spurred on by visions of the future. Afrofuture, an experimental programme curated by Beatrice Galilee, will ambitiously initiate an international design discourse around the exciting new conversations bursting out of all corners of Africa. Galilee says: "As the design world expands its reach beyond aesthetics to encompass networks, strategies and unexpected tactics, Africa becomes an urgent critical voice in the global conversation. In the Afrofuture we imagine the African Union as the world's most powerful economic zone, we imagine DIY space travel and biomorphic militarised kwazulu vervet monkeys. We present Chinafrica state tv, futuristic instruments and contemporary African pulp fiction."
Over four days, la Rinascente invites festival-goers and consumers to journey with them into the Afrofuture. Taking over la Rinascente's flagship Milan store, each day's events will bring a forward-thinking, futuristic, global game-changing version of the world's second-biggest continent. Whether real of imagined, the Africa of today has wrapped its arms around the world of tomorrow. Writer Nana Ocran, who has helped develop the project for la Rinascente, says: "Afrofuture shines a modern, pan-African light on what can, is and could happen in design in and beyond Africa, through wider, deeper narratives and experimental mash-ups with global innovators. It's a dynamic platform to kick off the conversation about African design and to think big about how the rapidly emerging future will see mould-breaking designers coming up from the radical underground to the global mainstream."
From robotic mash-ups and African sci-fi to bio-design and the spirit of 'pop culture' in Ghanaian-made coffins, African creatives and makers thrillingly relay the African experience from their own point of view.
Alberto Baldan, CEO of la Rinascente says: "Afrofuture is a multidisciplinary project, like Hacked last year, for which la Rinascente is happy to give its 'stage' in the very heart of Milan. In this way we pursue two aims: we give visibility to the talent of many designers and artists and we offer to our public an unconventional point of view on design and its future. We like to think of la Rinascente as both incubator and spreader of creativity."