SEEKING AFRICA Design / Art Across a Continent

16th November - 16th December 2016

“There is an image, an idea of Africa that lives deep in human imagination…It is alive
within each one of us on a primordial level, inexplicable yet undeniable.”
Maya Angelou
Themes & Variations presents Seeking Africa: Design / Art Across a Continent, the first
exhibition in the UK to focus on the rich variety of contemporary design from Africa.
A growing sense of artists belonging to the wider continent suggests
that collective streams of ideas exist. This rise of individual visions,
evolving into a stronger communal voice, is explored in Themes &
Variations’ exhibition celebrating design in Africa today.

Each designer in this exhibition is on a journey of selection from a
formidable visual heritage, carrying these traditional references into
their contemporary design. The works displayed strongly reflect
African traditional symbiosis with nature, as spectacularly evoked by
Porky Hefer in his suspended cane ‘Nest’ for cocooned relaxation.
In this time of depletion of resources, designers from Africa
are deeply conscious of the need to reuse and recycle
materials to create works that are functional, imaginative, and
resourceful. Hamed Ouattara, for example, reinterprets readily
available materials to construct rugged yet elegant cabinets –
in his case, from oil drums.

Perhaps the most moving expression is to be seen in the storytelling baskets of women who are
often the only tradition-keepers in a community. Those made by ‘Gone Rural Collective‘ also
remind us that making and crafting challenges the rise of conformity in global contemporary
design and the complacency of mass production.

This exhibition attests to each artist having a distinct individual presence rooted locally, and yet,
the underlying bond is a shared modern African identity in which biomimicry, sustainability and
social engagement connect.