Africa Rising

There's a new design culture on the up in Africa and 'Africa Rising', a beautiful new book by Gestalten, has got us hooked...


Charles Darwin speculated in his 1871 book ‘The Descent of Man’ that Africa was the birthplace of humankind. That theory has been endlessly disputed ever since but our fascination with the world’s second largest continent shows no signs of dissipating.

‘Africa Rising’ is a sharp insight into the creative forces at work today in this large and multi-stranded region. Co-edited by Cape Town forum Design Indaba, and covering fashion, art, textiles, product design, architecture and music, it’s a remarkable book that depicts a vibrant and evolving African identity unfettered by lazy stereotypes.

ABOVE: Fashion designer Marianne Fasler's vibrant patterns and colours are surefire front cover material
ABOVE RIGHT: Bold stripes and oversized flares feature in Rich Mnisi's unisex Autumn/Winter 2016 collection
BELOW: Clear, spacious layouts and bold typography are a winning combination

Check out Johannesburg-based Marianne Fasler’s 2015 Resort womenswear collection which uses textured silks, bold colour and geometrics to create elegant contemporary pieces with plenty of attitude. See how American product and furniture designer Stephen Burks, known for his collaborations with major European brands including Missoni, Roche Bobois and B&B Italia, took inspiration from traditional Senegalese baskets and the women who wove them. Or marvel at the beauty of the minimal Library of Muyinga, designed by BC Architects for deaf children in Burundi.

BELOW: The Library of Muyinga by BC Architects is made of earth blocks, eucalyptus wood, sisal and clay


If textiles are your thing, look to West African designer Aboubakar Fofana who has revived the ancient art of creating natural indigo dyes from plant leaves resulting in beautiful dip-dyed and printed fabrics. Lovers of modern art won’t be disappointed either. Harlem-born Kip Omolade’s paintings of chrome sculptured faces, referencing ancient Benin masks, bring a taste of Pop Art to the proceedings, while South African Marco Cianfanelli’s steel structures allow fleeting glimpses of falcons and Nelson Mandela.

BELOW: Into the blue: Dip-dyed textiles by Aboubakar Fofana sway in the breeze; In the navy: Cape Town-based South African fashion designer Lukhanyo Mdingi's minimal and androgynous 'Taintless' collection is a vision in blue

BELOW FROM TOP: Marco Cianfanelli's 'Falcons' sculpture in Abu Dhabi;  Incredible chrome face oil paintings by Kip Omolade

Above all else, ‘Africa Rising’ shows how traditional techniques and cultural practices are being harnessed to push this great continent forward and serves to remind us of the power of design as a force for good. For once you can judge a book by its cover…

'Africa Rising' by Gestalten (Gestalten, €39)

Pictures: Marco Cianfanelli, Travys Owen, Francois Goudier, Kristin-Lee Moolman
All images © Gestalten 2016