Design Week Lagos

"We want African design to be functional" says Design Week Lagos founder

Design has not been valued in Africa for decades, says Nigerian interior designer Titi Ogufere, who has launched a design week in Lagos in a bid to change that.

The inaugural Design Week Lagos is taking place in venues across the Nigerian city from 1 to 20 October. It aims to shine a light on creativity, not just in Nigeria, but all over Africa.

"Design Week Lagos aims to champion a renaissance in Africa's cultural, economic and technological ascension in design, so that it operates as a tool for conversation, development, movement and economic growth," said Ogufere.

Design should solve problems

A big issue across Africa, according to Ogufere, is that many designers produce objects that don't solve problems and instead see design as another form of art.

"A lot of people design but most of those designs don't make sense," she told Dezeen. "If a design doesn't solve a problem and isn't of use to a broad group – not just in Africa, but globally – then I'd say it's not a very successful design."

"We're saying, we want African design to be functional."

Design Week Lagos: Titi Ogufere
Titi Ogufere is founder of Design Week Lagos

Ogufere believes that a new generation of designers is changing that, helping Africa to develop a more distinct design identity. She points to IKEA's Överallt collection, which features designs by creatives from five African countries, as a good example.

"All of a sudden, there's a wave and I can't explain it," she said. "At every corner I see designers coming up with amazing ideas."

New identity for African design

Design Week Lagos centres around an exhibition called Design Kulture, where designers including Bibi Seck, Tunde Owolabi and Jade Folawiyo are showcasing collections that explore what contemporary African design looks like.

There are also a series of pavilions that present African design over seven different disciplines: architecture, interior design, industrial design, product design, technology, visual arts and critical design thinking.

Design Week Lago: Bibi Seck
Bibi Seck is among designers featured in Design Week Lagos' exhibition Design Kulture

Although the scope of the programme is still relatively small, Ogufere is confident it can have a big impact. The theme of the event, Redefining the Narrative, reveals the scale of her ambitions.

"I'm hoping to drive the narrative of what we call African design," she said. "We're trying to redefine the narrative for the future, so that in years to come, people will look at say back at see that the journey started here."

Nigeria has "rich heritage" of creativity

In Nigeria in particular, the fashion design scene is already on the rise, thanks to designers like Lisa Folawiyo, Ade Bakare and Orange Culture founder Adebayo Oke-Lawal.

All three are participating in Design Week Lagos' Osmosis exhibition, which sees them try their hand at interior design. The idea is to demonstrate how design thinking can applied in a variety of ways.

Design Week Lagos: Tunde Owolabi
Design Kulture, which also features work by Tunde Owolabi, explores what contemporary African design looks like

The country has plenty more to offer, says Ogufere.

"Because Nigeria is big, we have a really rich heritage when it comes to creativity," she explained. "I think we have it in our DNA."

"We need to educate people"

A big obstacle for young designers in Nigeria, according to Ogufere, is that there are not enough design schools. Talented young designers typically move abroad for education and, in many cases, they don't come back.

Ogufere has been trying to trying to change this for years – in her role as president of the Interior Designers Association of Nigeria, she was pivotal in the launch of the interior design programme at the University of Lagos.

She wants to put pressure on universities – in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa – to introduce more design-related degree courses, as she believes that increasing the number of trained designers on the continent will have a major economic impact.

Överallt furniture and homeware by IKEA and Design Indaba
IKEA's Överallt range is an example of Africa's emerging design talents, says Ogufere

"The economy in Africa isn't developed, because the elements of design aren't really strong," she said. "We need to push, we need to educate people, we need to empower people."

With the launch of Design Week Lagos, industry support is growing rapidly says Ogufere.

"[People] keep on saying, we want to support you, we want to give you money. But we're saying, the people you're asking to give to, they don't have the skills yet. We need to teach them."