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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