ARCHITECTURE, CULTURE AND IDENTITY
This major exhibition at Louisiana focuses 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 sheds light on the diversity and complexity of the part of Africa south of the Sahara Desert.
Through a number of projects spread over the African continent the exhibition tells a story of the new architecture of different regions – with its various proposals for accommodating local traditions, strengthen the existing ones and create solutions for the future. The exhibition presents a sensuous architectural scenography and a number of installations, where the form, scale and space of architecture can be perceived on a 1:1 scale. Life around the buildings is also part of the architecture. In the exhibition art, photography, film and other arts create perspective to the architects' efforts - and helps to refine our image of this part of the world.
The AFRICA exhibition is 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.
The exhibition series Architecture, Culture and Identity is supported by Realdania
SEVEN THEMES IN THE EXHIBITION
- Expanding Cities
- Making Space
- New Communities
- Building Futures
What does it mean ’to belong’? The exhibition opens with a rich polyphony of answers to this question. 25 prominent artists, designers, authors and architects each provides a glimpse into their world and discuss ‘belonging’ in Africa right now.
As a part of this theme you can hear Nigerian artist Emeka Ogboh’s audio work, with a simultaneous reading of an Igbo legend in both English and Igbo, or let your eye explore South African artist Patra Ruga’s beautiful hand-woven map of fictional territories. Or 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 held the exhibition's opening speech. Here, he emphasized how Louisiana’s exhibition confirms the turning point, which now takes 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 is architect and chairman of ArchiAfrica, an organization that develops, maps and communicates contemporary architecture and culture from Africa. He is based in Accra, the capital of Ghana, and has an extensive knowledge of the new architecture in Africa and the architects from the continent.
The exhibition theme ‘Belonging’ features Osae-Addos story about ‘Kente’. The Kente cloth is a traditional Ghanaian garment in bright colors and geometric designs. According to Osae-Addo, the Kente cloth has a particular identity formative role for Ghanesians, and it is thereby an example of how a cultural expression becomes a collective point of identification and creates a sense of belonging.
Photo: From the opening day of the exhibition. From left: Burkinian architect Francis Kéré, Joe Osae-Addo and Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi. All of them contribute to the exhibition.
Coexistence is a central concept across regions in Africa. The exhibition shows how the coexistence of apparently paradoxical contrasts is a condition of life and is of 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 be an architecture project, which in its core is an image of the reconciliation with a still very present and painful past. Or it could be a photograph which portrays the coexistence between visible and invisible family members.
THEME: Growing cities
Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the places on the planet where the cities are growing most. The exhibition focuses on the following six expansive cities: Dakar, Lagos, Nairobi, Kinshasa, Maputo and Johannesburg. All of them are important nodal points on the continent and represent a complexity of geography, culture and colonial history that is 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 can 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.
SIX CITIES - ONE SENSUOUS URBAN SCENOGRAPHY
South African architecht Heinrich Wolff has made the scenography for the URBAN AFRICA-gallery. By shaping a cell for each of the African cities Dakar, Lagos, Nairobi, Kinshasa, Maputo and Johannesburg, a scalloped solid form is left as residue. In each spatial 'city cell' a curated characteristic of one of the cities can be seen.
THEME: Making space
Across the continent, the tradition-borne architecture in the countryside and in the cities across the continent form the models for various new construction initiatives marked by the distinctiveness of a given region. As a full-scale example of how architects today work with the tradition, this section shows a large installation by Diébédo Francis Kéré, who has 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 can be found in the Sculpture Park, Louisiana Hamlet by selgascano studio, who is also responsible for the Serpentine Pavilion in London this year, and Louisiana Spine by the young Namibian architects Droomer & Christensen.
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, are responsible for this theme. With a point of departure in Rwanda’s recent history, they give an account through a 1:1 brick structure which is a section of one of the building types they have 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. – is one of the most outstanding architectural tendencies in sub-Saharan Africa. It is characteristic of several of these projects that there is a high degree of local specificity.
To a great extent they make use of local resources and try to engage in dialogue with an existing building tradition in the given region. And it is essential to involve the local users in the construction process such that the finished building matches the needs people have locally and it is essential that the participants are trained in the maintenance of the project once the architects have left the arena.
THEME: Building Futures
The last theme of the exhibition deals with the future, or ‘futures’, as they have been conceived, and as people try to create them. Centrally in the space stands the late Congolese artist Bodys Isek Kingelez’ monumental, beautiful city model 'Project for the third Millenium of Kinshasa' from 1997. Kingelez’ work is 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.
Bodys Isek Kingelez: 'Project for Kinshasa for the Third Millenium, 1997. Part of the theme Building Futures.
The AFRICA exhibition catalogue (2015) is available as a digital reader. Generously illustrated, AFRICA - Architecture, Culture and Identity includes essays by among others the curators of the exhibition, Kjeld Kjeldsen and Mathias Ussing Seeberg, expert consultant Morten Nielsen, and Achille Mbembe, Edgar Pieterse, Filip de Boeck, and Nnamdi Elleh. 263 pages. Out of print.