Afrika

25.6.15 - 25.10.15

This major exhibition at Louisiana focused on architecture, art and culture on the African continent. By pinpointing a number of judiciously selected examples from a cultural here and now, the exhibition shed light on the diversity and complexity of the part of Africa south of the Sahara Desert.

The exhibition series Architecture, Culture and Identity was supported by Realdania

Through a number of projects spread over the African continent the exhibition told a story of the new architecture of different regions – with its various proposals for accommodating local traditions, strengthen the existing ones and creating solutions for the future. The exhibition presented a sensuous architectural scenography and a number of installations, where the form, scale and space of architecture could be perceived on a 1:1 scale. Life around the buildings was also part of the architecture. In the exhibition art, photography, film and other arts created perspective to the architects’ efforts – and helped refine our image of this part of the world.

The AFRICA exhibition was the third chapter in Louisiana’s major series Architecture, Culture and Identity. In 2012, the museum unveiled the first chapter – NEW NORDIC – and in 2014, it turned attention toward the Arab world with the ARAB CONTEMPORARY exhibition.

THEME: BELONGING

What does it mean ’to belong’? The exhibition opened with a rich polyphony of answers to this question. 25 prominent artists, designers, authors and architects each provided a glimpse into their world and discuss ‘belonging’ in Africa right now.

As a part of this theme attendees could hear Nigerian artist Emeka Ogboh’s audio work, with a simultaneous reading of an Igbo legend in both English and Igbo, or  explore South African artist Patra Ruga’s beautiful hand-woven map of fictional territories. They colud also read the young Somali writer Diriye Osman’s story of growing up as a homosexual in Somalia and Kenya.

A NEW FOCUS ON CULTURE FROM AFRICA

Ghanaian architect Joe Osae-Addo delivered the exhibition’s opening speech. Here, he emphasized how Louisiana’s exhibition confirmed the turning point, taking place in connection to culture from the African continent: “For the first time in my living memory, there are African artists, architects, musicians and other creatives, who can engage at the higher level and have the work to back it up.”

Joe Osae-Addo was architect and chairman of ArchiAfrica, an organization that developed, mapped and communicated contemporary architecture and culture from Africa. He was based in Accra, the capital of Ghana, and had extensive knowledge of the new architecture in Africa and the architects from the continent.

The exhibition theme ‘Belonging’ featured Osae-Addos story about ‘Kente’. The Kente cloth was a traditional Ghanaian garment in bright colors and geometric designs. According to Osae-Addo, the Kente cloth had a particular identity formative role for Ghanesians, and was thereby an example of how a cultural expression became a collective point of identification and created a sense of belonging.

TEMA: COEXISTENCE

Coexistence was a central concept across regions in Africa. The exhibition showed how the coexistence of apparently paradoxical contrasts was a condition of life and was a fundamental importance to the individual community.

It could be through an art work, dealing with the coexistence of a local reality and a global pop culture. It could have been an architecture project, which in its core was an image of the reconciliation with a still very present and painful past. Or it could had been a photograph which portrays the coexistence between visible and invisible family members.

THEME: GROWING CITIES

Sub-Saharan Africa was one of the places on the planet where the cities were growing most. The exhibition focused on the following six expansive cities: Dakar, Lagos, Nairobi, Kinshasa, Maputo and Johannesburg. All of them were important nodal points on the continent and represented a complexity of geography, culture and colonial history that was expressed in different ways of living.

Many cases in this theme show ‘informal neighbourhoods‘ formed by people themselves, with related informal economies. In this section you could also explore examples of utopian visions of the future, housing projects for a growing middle class, and the architecture of the colonial era, which still stands as relics of the past.

The city theme has been staged by the South African architect Heinrich Wolff.

THEME: MAKING SPACE

Across the continent, the tradition-borne architecture in the countryside and in the cities across the continent formed the models for various new construction initiatives marked by the distinc­tiveness of a given region. As a full-scale example of how architects were working with the tradition, this section showed a large installation by Diébédo Francis Kéré, who had become world-famous for his work of building anew in his native village of Gando in Burkina Faso. Kéré’s installation in the exhibition builds on an analysis of his village.

As a part of this theme two additional 1:1 installations could be found in the Sculpture Park, Louisiana Hamlet by selgascano studio, who was also responsible for the Serpentine Pavilion in London that year, and Louisiana Spine by the young Namibian architects Droomer & Christensen.

THEME: REBUILDING

This theme unfolds the story of a socially comitted architecture in Rwanda, a country best known to many people for genocide 21 years ago. Today the situation is quite different. The architects Tomà Berlanda and Nerea Amorós Elorduy, co-founders of the social-activist drawing office ASA, were responsible for this theme. With a point of departure in Rwanda’s recent history, they gave an account through a 1:1 brick structure which is a section of one of the building types they had erected with ASA in various parts of Rwanda.

THEME: NEW COMMUNITIES

Socially rooted architecture – schools, hospitals, children’s homes, women’s centres, religious institutions etc. – was one of the most outstanding architectural tendencies in sub-Saharan Africa. It was characteristic of several of these projects that there was a high degree of local specificity.

To a great extent they made use of local resources and tried to engage in dialogue with an existing building tradition in the given region. And it was essential to involve the local users in the construction process such that the finished building was matching the needs people have locally and it was essential that the participants were trained in the maintenance of the project once the architects had left the arena.

THEME: BUILDING FUTURES

The last theme of the exhibition dealt with the future, or ‘futures’, as they were conceived and as people tried to create them. Centrally in the space stood the late Congolese artist Bodys Isek Kingelez’ monumental, beautiful city model ‘Project for the third Millennium of Kinshasa’ from 1997. Kingelez’ work was surrounded by tales of attempts to create the post-independence of a new world in the various countries, both when independence was brand new and today.