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Design Indaba partners Google to showcase African creatives through Colours of Africa project

Design Indaba Google

Design Indaba, in partnership with Google Arts & Culture, has launched an online project called ‘Colours of Africa’. The project brings online and showcases 60 specially-curated artworks produced by over 60 unique African creatives chosen by Design Indaba - each invited to contribute a work that captures the ‘colour’ and character of their home country.

Selected by Design Indaba’s founder Ravi Naidoo, the creatives will showcase the best of African craft, product, industrial design, fashion, film, animation, graphic, food, music, jewellery and architecture. “Africa is known for its bold, unapologetic use of colour. Each country, city and community is identifiable by its unique palette. As Africans, we can tell powerful stories through colour. This project tells a story of a continent through the universally accessible lens,” says Naidoo.

The first artistic undertaking of this scale, the project will allow viewers to discover stories of Africa as told by the African creative community. The artworks will be showcased online where users are invited to spin the kaleidoscope to explore the works in an effort to take users on a journey through Africa,  inviting them to view each country through the  eyes of a local artist.

“Google has always been acutely aware and in full support of the immense creative melting pot that exists on the continent. Collaborating with Design Indaba on this project allows us to bring this support to fruition. By empowering and amplifying African voices to tell the unique stories of their cultures through their work and creativity, we hope to provide much-needed exposure, cultivate a newfound curiosity, and window into the vast beauty that exists on the continent,” says Nitin Gajria, Managing Director at Google.

The project involves creatives from almost every discipline imaginable, from architecture, illustration, painting and ceramics through to writing, engineering, the performing arts and visual communications. Their creations have been converted into images, videos, texts and illustrations. The multidisciplinary mix of 60 artists includes Algerian photographer Ramzy Bensaadi, fashion designer Bisrat Negassi from Eritrea, filmmaker Archange Kiyindou “Yamakasi” from the Republic of Congo and visual artist Ngadi Smart from Sierra Leone.

To bring the project to life, Design Indaba collaborated with former Design Indaba conference speaker Noel Pretorius and his creative partner, Elin Sjöberg, who collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab to create the design concept and interface for the digital exhibition. The exhibition features a kaleidoscopic navigation tool that can be used to explore the art in a randomised way, giving the visitor a unique experience, while allowing the art itself to shine.

“Nothing like this exists to date, so we’re very excited to break new ground. This is an important artistic catalogue, the first of its kind to plot the expanse of African artistry on Google Arts & Culture. We salute Google for taking this important step to provide the world with a resource like this – not everyone can afford to travel here, or access physical art fairs and museums to view this kind of work,” continues Naidoo.

In addition to the Colours of Africa platform, the initiative will also see the launch of over 4 000 images, videos and 20 carefully curated exhibits from Design Indaba’s extensive archive. Award-winning initiatives like Sheltersuit, Arch for Arch and Emerging Creatives will be profiled extensively for the first time online.

New works by some of the most important creatives working on the continent and abroad will also be displayed. These include Fozia Ismail (featured creative on Serpentine Gallery’s Creative Exchange programme), Mayada Adil El Sayed (represented Sudanese women at the Generation Equality Forum) and Lady Skollie (winner of 10th FNB art prize).

Design Indaba, which celebrated its 25th year in 2020, draws top thinkers and guests from across the globe. Acknowledged as the world’s best design conference, it continues to be a leader in foregrounding African creativity, making it the logical ‘home’ for this project.

“We look forward to giving viewers a ticket to experiencing a whole new world, one that is outside of their everyday surroundings and creative knowledge. This project answers the vital call for all to notice and embrace African art in all its wonder,” concludes Nitin Gajria at Google.

As part of the project launch, Design Indaba commissioned Nigerian multi-talented creative and  accomplished professional artist, Chief Nike Monica Okundaye to capture the unique spirit of her country in a colour which represents home to her. She created an original painting titled 'The Female Drummer/Àyánbìnrin’.

The colour blue in Nigerian indigenous cultures is the colour of love. Before a king ascends the throne, he often has to wear the royal indigo blue. In Yorùbá, this is called ẹtù. In northern Nigeria, the colour is also used for the chief or the king. Same in eastern Nigeria. In the north, they sometimes even pound the blue into the turban when they marry a new wife. The whole face is sometimes blue to show love to the new bride. During their Durba, they sometimes wear the shining blue colour into the turbans to show love to the people at the festival.

“I used blue for this painting titled 'The Female Drummer/Àyánbìnrin' to illustrate both the love you see here between the drummer and her lover and the love desperately needed in the time of the coronavirus lockdown. In Yorùbá societies, the talking drummer is usually at the front of the palace sending messages to the king through the medium of the drum — messages that the visitor themselves might not understand. The unique thing about this painting, done during the lockdown, is the use of the female drummer instead of the typical male ones seen in traditional Yorùbá art. My work involves female empowerment — I have trained disadvantaged women, widows, and young women for many years on fabric art — so I am always happy to put women at the forefront of my artistic philosophy”, says Nike Okundaye, Founder and Managing Director of Nike Center for Art and Culture.


Explore the continent through the eyes of the inspired. To view Colours of Africa, visit: on Google Arts & Culture.


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