Open/Ended Design
Open/Ended Design

Episode 1 · 1 year ago

Azu Nwagbogu on Decolonising culture and society in Africa

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Open/Ended is a platform for activist designers and thinkers around the world. Together, we will explore the spaces where creativity, culture and design intersect with technology, science, and engineering; with a lens on positive change.

/

Azu Nwagbogu is a cultural force in Africa, leading for change through experimentation, intellect and intuition. Azu began his career in science, obtaining a Masters in Public Health from The University of Cambridge. In the course of his career with journalism he realised the power of the visual image. He ended up founding the African Artists Foundation and the groundbreaking Lagos Photo Festival - both of which he continues to direct.

/

“We are living through incredible change; it's not normal that you experience so much change and transition in a lifetime. It's never happened before. It's incredible. Each generation must find and discover its own reason for its existence, and so it really is demanding of us. Our hands are full.” - Azu Nwagbogu, Open/Ended #1

Welcome to this first conversation for openended, which is a new platform for activism and design which we've been speakingabout now for a few months. The goal is to bring together some ofthe world's leading thinkers and creators in the space of design and creativity with avision to understanding your work, you're thinking and to really unpack mechanics of howyou work across disciplines and, equally, of course, to looking to yourown dreams for the future and how they're manifesting in this moment. So we'regoing to be creating a manifesto of these ideas. Over the course of theseconversations and in the coming weeks, as I mentioned earlier, are we aregoing to be bringing together participants like yourself in groups to talk through your ideas, to connect, to share and to build upon some of the plans,projects and ideas that you raise in these conversations. So Azoo, to saya little bit about yourself, we were lost together in Cape Town, probablyat during the last week of the old world as we know it, Ithink, and we were both judges on the social impact Arts Pris and SouthAfrica, and we had this amazing moment in time to actually watch, Isuppose a little bit from the outside, the changes that we're taking place inthe world, to listen and maybe to reflect a bit on what may havebeen coming. But equally, we realize that we share a lot of thesame experiences. We talked a lot about identity, we talked a lot aboutour vision for a different kind of future, and that is one of the reasonsits entire project has come about. So thank you and to say verybriefly, go ahead, thank you for remarkable that you've been able to kempand capsulate the transition, and in a really beautiful way. It's it's aremarkable moment in history right now. So I think the activities that we engagedin at this particular moment have the potential to create massive shifts in the waywe imagine the future. Yeah, it's actually quite very moving to think aboutthat in this moment, especially given that we're now on completely separate continents.So I will give a brief buy on you, because you're there's so muchto say in equally, this will be on the open ended newsletter and alsothe open ended instagram if people want to read more about you, although manypeople already know who you are and of your work. So, as youstarted off his career as a scientist, he did his master's in public healthfrom Cambridge and he was also a journalist and a curator and he in twothousand and ten, founded the legos photo festival and that was, I suppose, the beginning of his work and culture and he hasn't looked back at allsince then. So I'd like to start the conversation, as you by askingyou about your work leaving up to the founding of the Lagos photo festival,what took you there and just to give a little bit of insight into ajourney that you tooked that really completely transcended boundaries. Thank you for great beforeLeaga Photo Festival, we actually I found at the African artist foundation, andthat happened in two thousand and seven. I moved back to legers in twothousand and six and a few months later I just thought it was essential toget artists to work together, to build a community and and I thought itwas something that was lacking. Doing, if you galleries doing quite well,but in terms of like a community of artist with the potential of bringing peopleinto a culture safe space, I thought I could create something in that regard. It was three years after that that we created a legal fought festival,and Nigger foot festival was just an easy option, something that really picked itself, because photography have an incredible immediacy about it and urgency about it that allowsyou to create intervention immediately. And for the longest time, and even now, Africa remains really obscure and really remains exhorts either or Romanticize or almost anabstraction the photography. Through photography, were able to create tangible connections and Ibelieve photography is the Reading for the explosion and, of course, social mediaof a lot of artists from Africa and the staffs for on the global stage, because be able to share on these platforms. So it was essential thatwe push back against dominant narratives that really keeps them Africa down in this sortof like the disease that the privation and...

...the displacement, the famine on,all the terrible situation that everyone is very well aware of, and we wantedto create a narrative that were more nuanced. And when you create new as thenyou can create the opportunity for intervention and also to empower the creative onthe continental who are actually making great work and I gained convective thing that Ilike the most community. I thought it was central to create a platform Ican bring a community of people that embrace what I call the African sensibility together. So thought it wasn't about supporting or promoting or giving an opportunity to artistsfrom Africa and is the ASP by with about bringing people that have this embracedthe sensibility together. So a lot of the artists that we've showed at Otiswe should have been from all of our the globe, even from the firstedition, you know. But the work that it make, it's unique becausea make abig conviction with a sensibility, with a sensitivity and an attention thatreally wasn't celebrated. And so yeah, I can be I think it wasa really important moment and I think make us thought to us able to achievea lot of the last I've been able touching a lot of the last inyears. I mean, that's an understatement. So what I mean one of thethings that I think is very remarkable about you is your positivity, bothin your language and your approach. You talk about decolonization you talk about,you basically took the power of the image and you allowed for this festival toshow individuals owning it, whatever their relationship to Africa was, and to turnthe lens back on to the continent. I also think that you're very unapologeticfor the definitions that you use. So it's Pan African and equally, youdon't apologize for the fact that we do have these shadows hanging over colonized orpreviously colonized countries, this idea that there will always be an other and anoutsider. So I'm very curious about really, as you set up the festival,what was the vision for it? I know you've spoken in the pastabout photography as activism and you were empowering these photographers to have their own voice, but I kind of the beginning of that journey and how it manifested bothgetting people from across the INN tenant together to participate, but equally allowing audiencesto understand what you were trying to do. I mean, I think I stillremember very, very clearly when I started and I thought this is goingto be incredible, disgart to be great, it's going to be powerful, andeveryone thought I was really crazy because, you know, I expect to RentCoal House and specific in Sassin, expect to some of the leading namesin in industry and but I I targeted the people I knew cared and thenthey nothing that beat passion. I mean these guys are people who are thetop of their food of the food chain, at the top of their game.They're able to their recognize leading industry practitioners, but they have a passionfor the situation. And you know, when you get these people in theroom, but you have a conversation with them, it gives a lot ofencouragement because we the tendencies to believe that we are alone and you know,we're like no one really gets to be importance of what we're doing, theone really gets the creativity and the energy that it takes to do what wedo. But that's really a line. If we have the generosity to shareand the confidence to share, to create a situation where we can all meet, then we can find a lot of we can build a community and that'swhat I found when I made the first step towards you know, created thefestival, and people were very generous with their time, with the ideas withtheir contact and we were able to bring in a whole bunch of artists toLagos, and that's something else that I found to be important. Not onlyis it important to hear these ideas, but it's also important to host,and host in the really powerful thing. You know, the importance of peopleread with you, coming to your home, sharing a meal with you, youknow, celebrating with you, hanging out with you, and this issomething that is unusual. It wasn't never happened in the LEGOS, for example, in recent time, maybe first exempt to seven we had a major festival, but have been a whole our community looking on too this, you know, place that is seem to be dangerous and obscure and you know, wasunusual at the time. And, as I say, you know success buildsuccessful. Getting everyone together, the workshops, the talks, the community, allof that stuff really made a huge impact and still inspires me. Istill look back at that period together the sense of encourregnent of the four thingsthat I want to do in the future. And was there connection between the Africanartist foundation in the festival our what...

...did you keep them as completely separateentities? Really good question, I thought. For the sake of identity that itneeded its own, you know, logo, it's own image, itsown and I had to find a way to remove and detach my personality fromit to a Lana to really survived. But it was a production of theAfrican Utis Foundation, but I don't think a lot of people really knew thisset the start. There wasn't really it was a program designed and created bythe Africanatis Foundation, but it wasn't that obvious because aff kind of foundation wasfamous for organizing the national art competition, organizing local exhibitions and doing workshops andresidencies, but mostly individualist like paintings, culture, the traditional finance films,but photography was something that we had it done in this very dedicated fashion.So yeah, it was a production of the can art foundation, but wedid it not as possible to give it a sort of unique public voice,separate, I see. Okay. And then in terms of the festival asit stands now, or like the last iteration, could you explain a littlebit about what it is, because I know there's the actual exhibition, butthere's so much more associated with it. So you talked about community. Iffor me it's just as really powerful example of how you can bring culture,but it becomes as force for bringing not only people together but empowering people tohave a different kind of voice. And so it's obviously evolved and I knowit's been different every year, but maybe if you could explain a little bitabout what the experiences if you were to visit. So we've always had avery conscious thematic approach, and so the the first four five years with thefirst of all, we really had this sort of inferior which a complex ifyou like, as an institution, because when you we were we wanted peopleto we were a little bit defensive. We were trying to show that Africawe didn't want to replace the what we call the Afro Pessimism, the theidea that Africa is a sort of dark, hopeless situation. We didn't want toreplace that with another cliche without to replace it or to challenge it withwork. You know, that was maybe with the conviction and care and sensibilityand sensitivity, but we did that fit maybe three, four five years.But we quickly thought we can do more with this agency. We shouldn't worrytoo much about the way the rest of the all sees us. Now letthink we have done a lot in empowering or the creators, to be ableto tell our own stories in our own way and not worry too much aboutthe perception of outside it's towards us. But I thought it was now porterforls to take that agency and to design our own future. So I thinkit wasn't two thousand and fifteen. We have the designing features and that becamethe moment where we crystallize the festival to give a bit more urgency and agencyto artists and creatives to be able to do a bit more with it.Last year the theme was passports and we've always thought like our themes almost likehave a sort of Christians through it, as kind of predictability, see,or prognosis, if you like, about impendent situation. So we wanted tochallenge the notion of image and identity as the represented on the passport and whatthat means and how that creates inequality. And I think we can all seewhat the what that's situation means today and how your passport and you give theprivileges and options and how your identities reduced to an image that is readable onthe piece of paper and so it's so incredibly ironic when you think about theoriginal idea of what a passer would meant to do. So we we've alwaysfound a way to walk shop ideas, get designers, not just photographer,of artists, writers think as we have. We've had like really great and youknow, we talk about Pan Africanism. How do you create the situation forPanach Africanism if you don't actually create this situation where we can bring peopletogether? So it's always great. But the first of all we have artistsfrom Ghana to go South Africa or in Lagos, at the same time dialogingand sharing idea. Of last year we have Ibrahim Hammer over we had awhole bunch of artists from Ghana, from South Africa, who came by andit was we have the seminars, the workshops, the conferences, all iswell attended by the public. Public Presentation, outdoor exhibitions, you know, displayin public spaces. Also try to bring a democratic approach to out andgating because you know, in country like Nigeria, David and then litism daysassociated with art. It's about your you...

...know, how your privilege, ifyou like. So with legal floto from the film start, we were consciousabout creating the opportunity for the public to engage with the messaging under ideas ofthese incredible artists we're coming up with. So I mean, I think thatpart of exactly this is this process that you know, you obviously we're consciouslymoving towards. This was the idea of culture being inaccessible, and the truthis I'm sitting right now in the Slama bad and so I think about thata lot. But equally, it's very hard for somebody to walk through thedoors of the National Gallery in London or the Royal Academy if they feel thatthey don't belong. And I think that that, you know, the wayyou've been able to structure something which has been world class leading, driving intellectualthought and dialog but equally feels expansive enough for anyone to walk through the door, has been, you know, of course, representative to countries around theworld from a creative space, but equally has been driving to the future.And I really love the way you describe it as precent because I completely thinkit is. I know I think it was two thousand and seventeen where yourtheme was post true. Was that so? So this was the next thing Ireally wanted to get to is like really these themes and the ones thathave felt most powerful to you. You talked about one already, but howyou've been may be surprised by how people have responded. have any of thembeen difficult or controversial or cause your problems? And I know it's not just aboutphotography. There is also photojournalism. There's a moving image to how haveyou been able to not only get people behind these scenes but equally, whatis the next step? What is the outcome afterwards? Do you let itgo or do people come back to with, I don't know, new ideas orinterventions or maybe criticisms? That's a really great question. I think yourprevious question really helps answer that question, because if they go thow to withthis festival or be an Alle or chin alle or whatever. I was inisolation. That happens, you know, every two years, every year inOctober, and that's it. Then we I wouldn't really be excited to doit. But when we create that situation in October for three months, wehad quickly able to engage in the community again through the African Artists Foundation andthrough all of the activities that we do some of the most incredible things thatreally leaves me speechless as the ability to impact younger artist, younger photographers,younger think is to make new work, to think about art in a differentway. And we also set up the portfolio review, sometimes sponsored by variousindustry champions. So we have a review of the portfolios and then we wegive a prize, sometimes the cash prize or mentorship and exhibition, depends onwhat we get, and we handed out to the community and it's it's reallytransformative. But coming back to the idea of the team's you know, wejust put our ears to the ground. The artists are the ones who aremostly in tune with what's going on in team, and then we just sortof give it language, articulated. It's like when you read the work ofa great writer like tolster, who just describe what you're thinking, but youhaven't quite given it voice. So you know, put words together to createthat thought process into words. It's work the curators try to do when wecurcurate the first of all the work without the the situation is out there.It's about articulating it, coming up with the the narrative that ties in whatthese artists are doing. We don't. We're not the artists were another ones, you know, feeling the pulse or society. They fill the polls.We just give it the kind of home. So a lot of your writings kindof follow the journey of the artist. Try like you either it cannot work, or the journey of one particular artist to expand, and I thinkthat that probably keeps you as connected as anything else, because you're not justlistening, you're going deeper, you're thinking through it. And I know you'vewritten a lot about the idea of hybridity and I think it's equally relevant tothe African continent as to many other countries, you know, outside of the West. is so idea of when you have been colonized, as you think, without thinking, across time, across space, across culture. And that'snot just about what is the practice? Is it just, you know,photography or painting or drawing? It is how do you see the world?And I know that we're coming to this a little bit in terms of whatyou're looking to the future, but equally I'm wondering if you had any issueswith that, particularly with your western audiences...

...or critics the sense of just notbeing able to understand this idea of the other. Has that come up atall? It may be possible that it's not, but I find that whatfeels very inherent to people from, you know, places which have been colonizedor, equally, places where cultures have just kind of evolved and overlapped over, you know, whatever the Millennia. There's a different way of identifying oneselfand then, equally, that translates into artistic practice in different ways. Ithink you know, you're touching on another really interesting point. If you lookat the contemporary arts scene today in relation to Africa and the stance, fora mean on Instagram, when any in social platform, social media platform,you will observe that the dominant narrative and the images are related to portraits,portraiture. It's usually and it's almost like an exaggerated form of blackness. Youknow, you see all of the work of carriage as Marshall and it's likethe carriage as marshal effect. I mean there's so many artists who painted thisvery representative way figuration, but it's not it's more like popeture and identity andit's kind of expressive art. And know the Ke Backley Hendricks carried in Marshall, the whole then the whole community of young artist painting and representing identity inthis way, and your identity either, set of narratives that we've told ourselvesabout ourselves. But it's not always true, if not always your it's not onlythe accurate, it's what you've assumed to be your identity. And ifyou're the post colonial, and if we're in the postcolonial, we receive somuch and external influence and they're all high bred. Well, you know,be inviting different cultures, but the problem is that we they the tendency towardsmonoculture. It's like the world is only interested in this monocultural identity that celebratesyou know, this is what an educated its success for president, should lookand sound like. And we have to push back against monoculture because the diversityof humanity it what makes humanity willing to beautiful and and interesting. So,going back to the idea of its representation of this figur into form of blacknessthat is now all the rage, if actually a very deliberates statement that theseartists are making to say it look, we don't need to make work that, with a lot of strong social background and strong social commentry, we canmake work that does simply represents a sense of presence in space and time andthat's such a radical, radical notion or blackness and art that haven't been givena lot of weights. I as a counter cultural force. It feels moreimportant than ever. I saw an article yesterday, I think it was CNN, showing the Democratic presidential candidate and then underneath the images of three or fourblack women, as is possible, vice presidents, and just cannot believe sometimesthat in at this moment in time, that we can be so reductive ineven defining like how somebody should seem like a do you know, and againthe power of the image and photography, the picture of the photograph of awhite man who is already incredibly powerful, and then who does he choose?And you know, reducing these four incredible women to an image. I mean, we could go on and like talk about that in a completely separate conversation. But equally, you know this the complexity, in the newance of whatyou've described and what you've been working on for now, you know, thelast decade and more, and then this we're still at this point where theimage can be used to reduce and we can use it to reduce ourselves and, equally, others use it to make us smaller. But I also wonderif you feel, because of social media, you know, and I'm sure thisconversation you know again, I'm sure people have asked you this question somany times, is the power of the image to shop, to move,the power of words, we know, has, you know, diminished entirelybecause of social media, but equally because of the news and how we converseand this short term as world that we live in. So how have youconfronted that, is to keep the image, the photograph, meaningful through the workthat you're doing, because I personally, I have a hard time imagining howan image matters at all, because I can take a thousand pictures onmy instagram and put them up and people will, you know, of course, some of them they may genuinely be reacting to be equally, they're goingto forget everything, you know, within...

...the next twenty five seconds is andmove on to the next shot. The image is a quick question. Justgive me a second bit to move my clock before I goes up. EveryI should say actually, while as is is is fixing his clock. Isthat he also you know, he's has amazing contemporary art behind him, whichI would love to know about. Maybe you can tell us. But alsowas a director of the Zit smoker in Cape Town. So yeah, theimage. It's a great question because I think we know we are at anage where the average person today, living today, has seen more, atleast the estimates are maybe fifteen times more images the people who lived the centurybefore, the generation before that, the century before. So if you thinkabout the production of images today and the let's even call it the overproduction ofimages today, and what that means a contemporary society, what that means visualculture, it's it's easy to think of it at problematic and less significant thanin the past, but actually I'd like to think of its evolving a newvisual language. And if you talk to young teens, adolescents, you know, and people between the fifteen and twenty, they have a totally different I theair of images today. They have a completely different visual understanding. Theway they read images is still much quicker than a lot of people who areexperts in the field, and I've been in this industry for many, manyyears, they have such an understanding of visual culture and they quickly make associationsthat are not when also obvious to you know, to be good. Photographyis actually a lane, a language is actually the father thought. And ifyou think about it from that perspective, where you think about the medium asthe message, you think about it from that sort of the Culture Tilta andthe visual the the the tone of learning. We are very fragile wh period rightnow where the visual language is actually the most important language, and athat'ssociation of images in sequence has such an incredible power to translate and communicate.So if you talk about an image of Joe Biden and then for African Americanwomen underneath him as and then he's on top and therefore vp, it's it'svery meaningful. It said much more than is obvious because it was the reverse. And to have a African American woman who was president and probably looking forvice president, the probably put the guys on the same line, you know, because they wouldn't think to put this is this are the things that happenedin the subconscious. But we begin to pay attention to it, that becomemore visually literal. I would become we create a community that actually engages withyou know, this visual language. If you think about the history of lifemagazine over a thirty year period, they had maybe for Africa in the fourblack people, I should say, on the cover, over two thousand twothe covers. Alpha the job made a great, great work about about it, called searching for African life. They had Muhammad a Lyon two covers andother than that they had one tribal image of you know, the sort ofimage of a tribal African with as fair and that sort of thing. Butthe motor and the mission of life magazine worth we bring the world to yourdaughter. And how world when the largest continent with the biggest people are notrepresented in this image? Is like, you know, the language matters andvisual language and virtual literacy matters, and the more we look, the betterwe understand and the almost we need fewer words because we can read so muchmore through images. Yeah, okay, sorry. So then I'll just saythis again. Is How do you fight the homogenization and, like, whatare the tools like? How have you found that to be something that feelsaddressable? Because, like, you also already let out the problems right,just like the portraiture. How do you go beyond that and still keep itengaging for this public that we still need...

...to connect with? It's not justup to one person. It's up to the curator that, it's up toeducation is the key and I think what you know, what we spoken aboutseveral times, you and I, is creating a lot more people that pushback against I want to say I think of the colonization as like Ham sanitization. It's not something that you've done the colon I think. No, it'syou've been immersed in it. It's part of passing of your fabric. Butyou have to completue to, you know, Wash your hand, sanitize yourself,completely pushed back against received knowledge, because it's not all bad, butit's not all good. So you have to also have the your wits aboutyou. And so that's when we come to education. Creating a movement ofvisual thinker is sharing the knowledge and experience that we've gathered from, you know, various identities and travels and experiences, and also refuse and resist acquired identitywhere people try and tell you who you are. All. You're from Lagosto therefore day, so you're from me Islam a bad so, therefore thispeople don't actually know your still we are all. The beauty of celebrating,and I talked about this black portraiture, is that it's more about individual it'sless about the association. You have to now deal with each one or it'sown merit. They have no real narrative arc where. You know, Ineed to tell you the story of how this work. It was inspired bysome war, finding all this world about migration or did bodever. You knowall of these sort of gender didectism. A lot of the work that isguiver interested in other work that I'm interested in promoting now, if I'm notthe man to die doctism't but that will can only happen when you've empowered theindividuals to have the agency of individual individualism, when they able to say I canlook after myself, I don't need to I don't need to worry aboutthe pushback. I can push back myself. I'm literally and visually Litterd, I'mculturally Lidrid and it got an education, but that's not something that happened accidentally. That's something that we have to be deliberate about, an intentional about. Yeah, equally having people to pull you up, and I think we'vetalked about this too, is somebody to look to that maybe looks like you. I could pull you upower, and that's something that I think you knowis across the world, of course, but equally it's as much one regionversus another. Okay, so to come now to the present moment and reallywhat I know you're working on, and I loved here because I know you'regoing to be leveraging the African Artist Foundation, the Lagos photo festival, the communitypublic talks lectures to think about the idea of repatriation and restitution and,for me, as a design project, the fact that you're using all ofthese entities to drive into a new kind of movement and Africa. I knowit's something that you haven't done before. I know it's partly inspired by thismoment in time. I'd love to hear about this particular project, where you'reat and what your plans are, because I know it's going to be verydifferent from what you've been doing in the past. Yeah, great system.I think the dominant conversation pre covid before the lowdown and before the situation ina Mesiology at special relation to Africa and to colonized, previously colonized nation andpeople. Who was the conversation around restitution and repetration of objects that are sequestedin Western museums and, you know, to use that? What was themedium and not really done to, you know, the to guess those communitiesanother complicated world. It's freeze. But and so my interest really is toacceleraate, to catalyze restitution. But I'm not overly concerned about the high levelnetworking because I do not operate in that situation. That's what the government todo, where it's about, you know, cultural diplomacy, where ministers and leaderthe talk at each other about it for years and years and years.Internally, what I'm interested in doing is a more democratic approach where the individual, your home, becomes in museum, where the your idea of your identity, your cosmology, is reduced to what you have in your space and youtake and you care for it. And when you begin to care for that, with the history that's embodied in your immediate close community, in your home, then it branches through your community where...

...you care about your community day,you care about your history. When you care about your history you care aboutthe objects that are sequested out there? Because, before I got it involvedin this project, actually went out and did a lot of research, spoketo a lot of people. I didn't want to think or make too manyassumption about the importance of institution because I know that my position might be privilegedor not or and can you say what is the goal of this project whenyou started out or where you are right now? The broad goal like definingthe idea of what is restitution for yourself and for the organization? I thinkit's important that we can share history and a heritage and people feel the selfof pride in the way you're from, because if you if you don't havethe sense of your history, then it is easy for you to feel inferior, go through life feeling like your less then you know every where you go, you read about all the great cultures and other great histories, but youdon't even have an idea of the greatness that embodied in your heritage and yourhistory are embodied through objects that were made, and I think what we're doing rightnow, everything we're doing right now, we're creating future archeological objects. Youknow, people were to come a hundred years from now, two hundredhears from now, they're going to say, how did people in two thousand andtwenty live, in two thousand and Twenty Five Live? What are theobjects? What are the deep execute? What can defined in the ground thatwe've left behind? It give an idea of how we lived. So thosethings are the four bears, forefathers answer still left for us to get asense of identity, to thegether sense of how they lived on how they existed. It's all sequestered and we don't have that sense of pride, we don'thave that sense of awareness, we don't have the sense of of joy thatcomes with the owning the heritage. So through the whole museum idea, throughphotograph in your own Cultural Hallooms, thing that your grand mom for your either. Yeah, and that's just like I think that your mother, your father, your grandparents left it at home. Think that you've acquired it. Mightbe a pair of reading glasses, it might be, you know, ateapot or something. Building your cosmology at home, your heritage at home,caring for it, paying attention to it. The home, the most democratic andthe face of space of our homes. So photograph and these objects and buildingthis online home museum that everyone can participate in and take a sense ofpride in what we have still available. I think we can build an awarenessfor the bigger concept of restitution, the bigger conversation around restitute to the moresame as the more iconic object, because in on in Africa, everyone madethese objects. They were made for what you might call spiritual elevation, weremade for played or made for survival. But it being reduced to objects thatwere made as for spiritual advation or worship, but actually for bears, made toys, they made play things and need object the way, just to foreducation. It's all gone. They made things that were designed to for technology, low tech objects that were back in for fishing, you know, butit's all gone because we are not able to translate that technology in contemporary timebecause it's requested elsewhere. And we when you, you know, you stillwere stolen the heritage of a people, it's hard for them to feel connectedto their truth history. So this is the mission and this is what wefocus on. This is what we're hoping to achieve through restitution. I'm notoverly concerned about the hide the demonstrative of the performative. I'm interested in usingthis conversation to empower to demons and to show that it is possible to builda consciousness, democratic consciousness, across social class. Of course, the boardfor for Africa again, and not to plan o the world. So Ilove also, you defined it in your in the original kind of plan youhad for this is shifting from a monopoly of control to a radical practice forsharing, and I think it's so true. I mean, we get caught inthese cycles in our day to day lives and our own countries and relationships, of sort of being stuck within the confines of a system, and it'svery rare to have people come in to break the actual room that we're sittingin, to break down the walls and to say, why don't you stepoutside? And you wrote that right now.

You know, there is a senseof the African continent waiting around like please, give our stuff back,like you said, speaking at the highest levels, but why not just stimulatetheir own process and take back and own your own culture? But I amcurious about this. Is like you know. So you're obviously involved in some ofthose conversations, and how do you see this building out. You're buildingthis online. So that's going to be for October, November this year?Is it still that timeline? And so what was the call to action?What is the response been like, and then where do you want to takeit from there? So we've got a lot of incredible feedback, response fromChina, from seventy eight year old people, from super young fourteen year old kids. We've got a very, very, very broad demographic interest in the homemuseum idea and it's it's actually he's been incredible and of course we planto continue with this project beyond the festival because for us it's what you,guys and take call who are generated content. So we plan to give everyone anopportunity to have their heritage, of their history available online. And wehave people often ask us things like what if people tell stories or fictional storiesaround it? Or if I said we like that too. You know,a lot of what we've received about Africa over the last two thousand fivezero yearsit's all fake news and we've swallowed the hook line of self sincle. Weneed to, you know, forget the diductive narrative and the narrative that we'veinherited. We need to start thinking about future nonsensical evene and breath other narratives. So we're not trying to stanitize they we're not trying to create an ethnoand ethnos or an athlographic approach to the the presentation of these objects. Withwe we're we're workshop in radical ways to make it super interesting and super demographicsabout these objects are not just celebrated, but they also intertructive. They alsowe also go to learn from them. We've got like people from Norway,from Mozambiag you know, like when you when you think about the history ofinfrastructure in Africa, there have been so many people who've been here in thes and the S and and it left and they left in objects and they'rehappy to share their happy to present them. We might be a pain and mightbe a newspaper article and we just love the idea of engaging the variousnarrative, a sill in the history through objects online at their able, democratic, free, accessible. I think it's wonderful. I'm really interested in theidea of how people arrange their space also. So there's the object and then there'slike, how is Your House arranged? What what goes? Where do youhave a shrine? You have this this sense of again, like theHouse that we know of is so sort of defined by these these images thatwe've seen throughout our lives. But how can you really bring that back topeople, saying this is, this is a way, I we eat onthe floor or whatever, whatever it is, and and opening that up to newaudiences, because I don't think we know enough of it and equally,I think there's a lot of misconceptions about exactly this is. I. Howdo people in various cultures or countries, you know, experience our day today lives? And it does feel really democratizing. So I'm really excited tosee where that goes. So what is a timeline for this coming the festivalis still in October. Ride still late October and are going to be online, online, I'm in public spaces as well. So we plan to haveexhibitions in that traditional public space venues outdoors. We're going to have visual messenger boardswhere people can we're going to pay paste images and people can past theirimages on the same spot or got to make it completely open and and inthe corona situation, we know that outdoor space of web safer and we cansocially distant up spaces that we don't we want to be having big Avin butwe plan to have big compicion out also in public space aboutdoors. I thinkthe online version would embrace the widest possible demographic with that absolutely no limits canparticipate. We also organize the workshops, seminars, presentation about his talks duringthe festival. During that period we hope that the we can, you know, get a bit of the traffic of...

...people who are interested in the conversationthat we're going to be generating around the top of the restitution the whole museum, the future Musiology for Africa, because I think the world is ready fora new in new character, in new identity, if you like. Ithink the iconic superstar architect designed structure for Museology is have been good. I'mnot in a knocking it, but I don't think it's for the future.We need to sustainable. We need a different notion. We don't need anothermonument to the architect vanity or another monument to ability to, you know,be different. We need humble situations that allow the lowest possibility and cup incomeour community to be able to engage age, to be part of our common humanity. You know, these museums, the way the functioned today, andincredibly intimidating, and you know you walk into the many field unwelcome, ifyou are not over, if you're not empowered. I'm so we don't wantthat. We want to what we still understand the importance of prestige, butPrestigi is not only represented in that sort of architecture that dominates somethinking also thatthe ideas that we generate through the Home Museum, through Legas forts as HomeMuseum, the Rapid Response Restitution could give us notions of future museology that inviteseveryone and makes everyone feel safe, that you can actually sit in the shouldn'tbe you shouldn't intimidate you to do it the way you feel like you needto be whispering. You're able to sit, you able to think. She willto have a meal some way. Should be able to engage with thework. The museum for the future is not have not been real life anyway, and maybe to happen here again on the continent in Africa. My God, I love that. I hope so. Like this would be the best possibleoutcome, and it sounds like you're already there. I also was thinkingof something that we were discussing earlier as a sense of being burdened when youcome from, you know, countries that have been colonized or from a minority, with being always steis trying to fix things and do the right thing andnot being empowered to say, let's create the new museum for the future.Let's not try and fit ourselves within the mold of what is expected of usor what's been gifted to us, but to say this is our museum.We might that's our word for it. We choose to call it a museumand common enjoy it or not, and without it having to be loaded withkind of comparisons, which I think is what we're always sitting with. AndI I just I love this and it feels like it's happening now. Ithink this is the moment. This is the moment where humanity is able towe can actually feel each others. that a kind of compassion. That isthe feeling of compassion that it's spread in around because we are all humbled bythe same situation. We are all we've all been sort of accluated, subduedby the right viral pandemic. So it allows us to feel a bit moreconnected. Of course, it's a big fallacy when we hear statements like weall and this together, the quate equalizer. It's none of those. We knowthat. We know that I should privilege you have options regardless, butit is still the closest thing we have to we still haven't had the situationthat I've created such a depicatization of experience and through this we're hoping that wecan catalize, imagine and one of the things that actually love the most ofthe for the last ten, twenty year, that's say the dominant narrative in contemporaryvisual art, especially in relation to not just Africa, have been futuresor half a futurism, specifically in religion to Africa. That's for everywhere you'vegone, you've seen Oakuen, wathers, be if Ben Ali in two thousandand fifteen. All the world features. The Studio Museum in Hallan the shadowsto shape. Last year I curated a show onside smoker, still here tomorrowto hid. Yesterday it was all about these various scenarios with various utopias andDistopias, because we kept on imagining the current comedien situation, where we havea dystopia that creates your watching for the new utopia. So I think we'dbe ready for the situation altismly ready for this disruption and I think we're bestprime to take advantage of it. We've been talking about it, debated it, imagining it, you know, designing it, using video games, usingmusic, you know, to sort of come up with this scenario. Now, N it's here, I think you...

...know we have to grasp it withboth hands. o My God, that's very inspiring, and so I like, I actually want to keep going, but I need to end it becauseI said that I would make the short and so I would say then tothat and like I'm very motivated by somebody saying something like video game and likeimagining using the online in space to come back to designing a new kind offuture. But to your point, we're already in that dystopian space. Wedon't really need a video game right now. In a way, we've been giventhis expansive world that, of course, is going to go back in manyways to what it was six months ago ago, but in other ways, is almost open to being shaped. And, like you said, isthe artists who probably feel more important than ever in my lifetime in terms ofbeing able to set a vision and and and drive us towards it, andequally, the rest of us who, for better or for worse, orempowered to be part of this conversation now. So what I wanted to end withis this question for you. Of you know, once we bring togethera group of you to start to think about what is the future and aswe build this manifesto of design, what is it that you feel is youknow, and you've touched upon a lot of these things, what is notdone yet? What is the one thing that you would like to work onif you had resources, time space? Could be a continuation of some ofthese projects that you've mentioned. It could be something completely new that's come up. I'd love to hear from you. Where is it that you'd love tonow spend your time on, if you if you could, I think I'veonly said that design and the image at the pillars of content pre visual culture, and if I could, I'm had I had the opportunity and the resources, I'd love to imagine a scenario where I articulated the situation for the mediumof the future for Africa, where I'm able to either workshop we get abunch of actors from the continent to Colleid ideas for how do we create themuseum for the future, where we able to marry education, because, youknow, a museum and a university, these are sevic institutions. That createsopportunities for learning. But you don't go to into university if you don't havethe qualifications, or you walk into a museum and it's free. You getan education, you get a sense of your culture and if you can gothrough the lights, go into a medium every weekend and you be better educatedthan many people who have degree that never been. Never Been. So I'minterested in the civic demonstration of museology where in Africa, our for bears answerto people before us, had art of a means to educate, to instruct, to share knowledge. I'd love to see how we can design the museumfor the future and how we can, even if I did not achieve thebuilding, but if we're able to create their manifest that we are. Iwas able to walk shop create a situation where local think of and designer,be able to engage with the ecologist and cultural practitioners, agronomist. You know, we talk about monoculture, monoculture, it also extends to agronomy, tothe colonial structure have operated historically and Africa. Weather coming the plant, one producein one in one fourth, in one situation exploited. Once they've donethey move to the next. We can have a high read. How dowe create multicultural situation? How do we create situation that allow us to beeducated, to bring different people together, to make Africa again the host formultiple ideas? That will be the ultimate thing for me to do. Thatsomething I hope and I'm able to work at some point. I love thatand so I don't know like make this about like my thoughts on it,but actually, to your point, like it does it have to be withina building. It can equally be coming back to the world we live in, these cities that are going to be swelling and expanding but equally at riskfor being flooded with rising sea levels. And how do we educate the futuregenerations about our planet? You know, you know, I just coming backto nature and the outdoors and exposing them in the way that your career hasallowed you to expose yourself two people who come from across boundaries and that's helpedyou grow, and so it just feels as a bringing a diverse group ofpeople together to help you to think through...

...this will only help it to expand, because I think there's many ways of questioning and challenging even the norms thatwe have right now prescribed. That's great. That's exactly what I love to do. Sounds it sounds really easy, but I can tell you that it'snot. It's really something that we have begun actor, depend, designers andthink of. Everyone wants that to chant the tangible. We want to knowwhenever they're going to be done. Well, even if you able to create thatmanifest and leave it as America for the future and think this is whatwe've come up with. We've thought about that. We talked about to pullsee. We thought about the change of in a when living through incredible changein it's not normal that you experience so much change in a lifetime. It'snever happened before in one lifetime. To experience all of the transition in it'sincredible. So I think it really is demanding of US each generation must rightto find it, find that discovery all the reason for it's existed, thatwe have as a handleful Okay Aso, also a very dear friend of mine. Thank you so much for this and I really look forward to following upwith you on this and your ideas. Thank you for pleasure.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (21)