Africa: Design From Another Continent | The Plan
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Africa: Design From Another Continent

The summer hit song “La Réalité”, is one of the tracks from the album “Une dimanche a Bamako” by Amadou & Mariam, two blind musicians from Mali.  Produced by Manu Chao, the track is already at the top of the hit parade in France, and the album sold out in just a few days. “La Réalité”, a song about the trials and joys of the people of Mali, composed to help people not get discouraged when they’re down, will also be the jingle for a telephone company commercial. The catchy tune signals the arrival of a real invasion of things African.
Fashion is the forerunner: The colours and flare of Africa have received cyclical attention from European designers, and become a must for the summer of 2005. An exhibition at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris sums up admirably designers’ love of Africa. Especially Yves Saint Laurent who, on several occasions, has taken his cue from the black continent to revitalize his signature classical elegance with tribal touches that do not, however, fall into the ethnic trap.
Unsurprisingly though the revelation of 2005 is a 39 year old designer, Duro Olowu. Born of a Jamaican mother and Nigerian father, Duro lives in London where he designs clothes – one-off models – with limited series, vintage African fabrics. His creations bear a (perhaps unconscious) resemblance to the works of Yinka Shonibare, the Anglo-Nigerian artist who dresses his “Martians” or gentlemen and women courtiers in 18th century attire made of traditional African fabrics.
After London, Africa Remix, a show of 100 contemporary African artists, went to the Beaubourg in Paris on May 25. “Made in Africa” design officially arrived in Europe, first at the Saint Etienne Biennial in October 2004, then at the Paris Furniture Show in January 2005, and finally at the Milan Triennale in April of this year.
An itinerant show touring Europe and Africa, it is accompanied by a bi-lingual catalogue in French and English, edited by Jean Michel Place with the...

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