By Chinenye Anuforo
Design Indaba, in partnership with Google Arts & Culture, has launched an online project called “Colours of Africa”. The project uploads and showcases 60 specially selected works of art produced by over 60 unique African designers chosen by Design Indaba – each invited to contribute a work that captures the “color” and character of their home country.
Selected by Design Indaba Founder, Ravi Naidoo, creatives will showcase the best in crafts, products, industrial design, fashion, film, animation, graphics, food, music , jewelry and African architecture. “Africa is known for its bold and unapologetic use of color. Every country, city and community is identifiable by its unique palette. As Africans, we can tell powerful stories through color. This project tells the story of a continent through a universally accessible lens,” says Naidoo.
The first artistic endeavor of this scale, the project will allow viewers to discover stories of Africa told by the African creative community. The artworks will be showcased online where users are invited to spin the kaleidoscope to explore the artworks with the aim of taking users on a journey across Africa, inviting them to see each country through the eyes by a local artist.
“Google has always been very aware of and fully supportive of the huge creative melting pot that exists on the continent. Collaborating with Design Indaba on this project allows us to bring that support to life. By empowering and amplifying African voices to tell the unique stories of their cultures through their work and creativity, we hope to provide much-needed exposure, cultivate new curiosity, and open a window to the vast beauty that exists on the continent,” said Nitin Gajria, CEO of Google.
The project involves creatives from nearly every discipline imaginable, from architecture, illustration, painting and ceramics to writing, engineering, performing arts and visual communications. Their creations have been converted into images, videos, texts and illustrations. The multidisciplinary mix of 60 artists includes Algerian photographer Ramzy Bensaadi, fashion designer Bisrat Negassi from Eritrea, filmmaker Archange Kiyindou “Yamakasi” from the Republic of Congo and visual artist Ngadi Smart from Sierra Leone.
To bring the project to life, Design Indaba collaborated with former Design Indaba speaker, Noel Pretorius, and his creative partner, Elin Sjöberg, who collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab to create the design concept and interface of digital exposure. The exhibition presents a kaleidoscopic navigation tool that can be used to explore art randomly, providing the visitor with a unique experience, while allowing the art itself to shine.
“Nothing like this exists today, so we are very happy to innovate. It is an important artistic catalog, the first of its kind to trace the extent of African art on Google Arts & Culture. We commend Google for taking this important step to provide the world with a resource like this – not everyone can afford to travel here, or access physical art fairs and museums to view this kind of work,” continues Naidoo.
In addition to the Colors of Africa platform, the initiative will also see the launch of over 4,000 images, videos and 20 carefully curated exhibits from Design Indaba’s extensive archive. Award-winning initiatives such as Sheltersuit, Arch for Arch and Emerging Creatives will be showcased in detail for the first time online.
New works by some of the most important creators working on the continent and abroad will also be on display. These include Fozia Ismail (featured designer in the Serpentine Gallery’s Creative Exchange programme), Mayada Adil El Sayed (representing Sudanese women at the Generation Equality Forum) and Lady Skollie (winner of the 10th FNB Art Prize) .
Design Indaba, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2020, attracts top thinkers and guests from around the world. Recognized as the best design conference in the world, it continues to be a leader in showcasing African creativity, making it the logical “home” for this project.
“We look forward to giving viewers a ticket to experience a whole new world, a world that is outside of their everyday surroundings and creative knowledge. This project responds to the vital call for all to notice and embrace African art in all its wonder,” concludes Google’s Nitin Gajria.