Walking Through Atlanta’s New Exhibit ‘Making Africa’

Making Africa High Museum of Art Atlanta
“Making Africa” features photography, video and fashion from across Africa. Photo by Chris Saunders courtesy of PAPA Photographic Archival and Preservation Association, Kapstadt/Cape Town.

A new exhibit at the High Museum of Art may change the way you think about the continent of Africa and its people.

Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design,” features work from more than 120 artists and designers from 22 countries and is available at the High Museum of Art from Oct. 14 to Jan. 7.

The subject matter is altogether playful, political and informative. Many different kinds of work are showcased, including photography, video interviews, books, fashion, furniture, video games, apps and more.

“When we think of the United States, we have a lot of different images that come to mind,” said Amelie Klein, a curator from Vitra Design Museum, which helped organize the exhibit. “Well, if we think of Africa, we have a very limited number of images that come to mind.”

In one room, three columns of small photos cover most of a wall — they’re photos from Africa’s tallest apartment building — the Ponte City skyscraper in Johannesburg, South Africa. The photographers, Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse spent two years taking photos of every window, apartment door and TV set in the skyscraper.

“What we’re trying to do here is really to just add a few images to the very limited stereotype,” Klein said.

Making Africa High Museum Atlanta
Photographers Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse spent two years taking photos of Africa’s tallest apartment building. Photo by Kaitlyn Lewis.

There are four parts to the “Making Africa” exhibit.

Prologue

Making Africa Atlanta glasses
These wearable eyewear sculptures were made from repurposed objects. Photo by Antony Wachira courtesy of Cyrus Kabiru.

This section lays the foundation and challenges preconceived notions about Africa. It includes infographics, facts and video interviews with theorists and practitioners, who say there is more to the story of Africa than the stereotypes we associate with it.

A highlight of this section is a display of Cyrus Kabiru’s “C-Stunners,” which are wearable eyewear sculptures made from repurposed objects found in the artist’s surroundings.

I And We

This section features fashion, photography and some videography. Artists express individuality and social belonging while addressing political and cultural issues.

The work here shows that people in Africa are connected to the digital world and are aware of social media trends. Filmmakers from all over the continent were inspired by a popular music video for Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” song, and this section shows off parts of their work.

Making Africa
“Making Africa” showcases the work of many fashion designers, who have a brought a diverse range of garments to the High Museum. Photo by Luis Monteiro courtesy of Duro Olowu.

When researching for “Making Africa,” Klein said she used the Internet as a primary research tool, and there was so much to explore.

“I experienced that there’s this new generation of millennials, if you want, who use (the Internet) in a very savvy way and in a very clever way to communicate their views and their perspective on the continent,” she said, “and (they) really used the Internet to really transmit a new image of Africa — what they think is Africa.”

Space And Object

The third section showcases more fashion along with architectural designs and furniture. There’s also digital displays including videos, slideshows and mobile apps from a Nigerian company called Maliyo Games.

Origin And Future

The final section of “Making Africa” paints the continent as a “global culture” that is teeming with innovation. It attempts to convey that Africa’s culture has global relevance.

Here, you’ll see a colorful jacket designed by Ikiré Jones along with a floral cape from the London-based Duro Olowu’s “Birds of Paradise” collection. There’s also a fabric on display that was constructed from bottle caps and aluminum strips linked by copper wire.

Making Africa jacket
Ikiré Jones’s colorful jacket designed for men, called “The Evan,” is on display at the High Museum. Photo by Kaitlyn Lewis.

In the end, the entire exhibit is just one part of Africa’s story, Klein said.

“It’s impossible to do justice with this continent, really, with one thing — whatever it is — one exhibition, one piece (or) one master’s thesis,” Klein said. “So I raised this potential of failure and just made it part of the exhibition and made it very clear that this is just one additional possible image of Africa. It’s not the Africa.”

Other Programming To Add To Your Calendar

In addition to the exhibit, The High Museum of Art will host an opening party Friday, Oct. 13 and conversations with artists and curators. You can find out more at high.org.

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