Arts + Culture
Olalekan Jeyifous at 'African Mobilities' exhibition. Photo by Laura Trumpp.

'African Mobilities' Is the Exhibition Centering African Voices in the Architectural Discourse

We speak with South African architect and curator Mpho Matsipa on her exhibition "African Mobilities" which is on view in Munich until August 19.

At first glance, you would not expect architecture to be the area where social changes are reflected most quickly. Every construction site in your city proves it all over again: The planning, designing and erecting of structures and buildings does take its time.

African Mobilities is an exhibition focusing on movement. Migrating, circulating people and the exchange of ideas, resources and aesthetics across borders. How does that relate to architecture?

African cities are reconsidered as sites of innovation, rapid transformations, new architectural typologies, infrastructures and technologies, highlights the curator Mpho Matsipa in her statement. The exhibition seeks to explore how architecture responds to the complexity of African Mobilities—beyond the figure of the refugee.

At the same time, the exhibition breaks with the expectations that are connected with the media image of Africa and from which the field of architecture is not excluded.

"If I speak to my colleagues in various parts in Africa they don't identify with the ways in which we are represented. This is about centering African voices and imaginations about the future and not always being consigned to a discourse of crisis that only allows for one particular kind of response," Matsipa says. Workshops and conferences over a period of two years were held in different African cities, Munich and New York, leading up to the exhibition African Mobilities. The result is a multi-disciplinary show with fresh perspective on the interface of art, architecture and social research.

But the reach of the ideas behind the exhibition does not end at the threshold of the showroom. Instead of an exhibition catalog, the website africanmobilities.org was launched, as a resource for the ongoing discourse on mobility. On there, the Chimurenga Library, an online archive with more than 500 books, music titles and movies, lays the foundation for a different kind of architecture—the cultural infrastructure of ideas, motifs and stories. Because that is where the very origin of architecture lies.

We speak more in depth with Matsipa about African Mobilities in the Q&A below.

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Arts + Culture
Touria El Glaoui at the 1-54 2018 preview. Photo by Katrina Sorrentino, courtesy of SUTTON.

In Conversation with 1-54 Founder Touria El Glaoui on the Fair's Constant Transformation

We catch up with director of the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, Touria El Glaoui , whose New York edition launched this week.

Since the first edition of 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair took place in London in 2013, a lot has happened with the fair. New York followed in 2014 as an additional venue, and Morocco became the first African country where the fair was held this year.

What remains the same is the focus on the 54 countries of the continent, to which the name refers, and the goal of promoting a global dialogue and exchange from an African perspective.

Touria El Glaoui, founder and director, uses the fourth edition of the New York Fair as an opportunity to draw an interim conclusion that sets 1-54 as a model in constant transformation.

Read more in our conversation below.

Ann Mbuti for OkayAfrica: 2018 has been the first year in which 1-54 had an edition in an African country. Why now?

Touria El Glaoui: Our goal from the very start was to have a physical presence on the African continent and create direct channels of exchange between Africa, Europe and North America. Having created a global platform and steadily strengthened our position in London and New York, we wanted to use this momentum to bring the focus back to the continent. Morocco has an extensive art and cultural history, and through its trade has been a link between the African continent and Europe. In some way by having the fair across continents we also serve as a connector. There are many reasons we chose to situate ourselves in Marrakech. One of them being that in the past year there have been more Africa-centered initiatives in Marrakech such as the opening of art institutions (MACAAL), and a significant growth in Morocco's contemporary art scene in general. We wanted to be a part of that development and introduce galleries and collectors to this budding market.

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