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African Design and Photography Head to Milan

The Palazzo Litta Cultura is showcasing the work of more than 20 creatives from sub-Saharan Africa, from design to photography to film and music

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Text by Rab Messina

On one side, 40 design products from the last two years; on the other, 55 recent photographic pieces and a diverse selection of musical productions. That’s the work from of 22 interdisciplinary creatives hailing from sub-Saharan Africa, grouped under the exhibition AfricaAfrica: Exploring the Now of African Design and Photography at Milan’s Palazzo Litta Cultura.

“We have chosen designers that represent the great heterogeneity of this extensive and semi-unknown area of a world very close to us”, said Elisa Astori, the design curator for MoscaPartners, the creators of the exhibition along with MIA Photo Fair Projects. Astori is working with South African designer Cara Judd to showcase pieces such as the steel-and-oil-barrel artifacts of Burkina Faso’s Hamed Ouattara (see our cover image), Ouagadougou-based Inoussa Dao’s interpretations of daily objects and Ivorian Jean Servais Somian’s repurposing of the hulls of abandoned boats.

MIA Photo Fair Projects and Maria Pia Bernardoni —known for her work with the Lagos PhotoFestival— are selecting the photos on display. They’ve chosen pieces by the likes of Ivorian creator Joana Choumali, who uses embroidery to talk of the broken ties produced by migration, and Congolese artist Maurice Mbikayi, who explores digital waste.

Milanese label Ponderosa Music&Art is in charge of the musical programming, while there’s a selection of sub-Saharan films at the African, Asian and Latin American Film Festival, running from March 18-25 at venues like the Auditorium San Fedele and the Spazio Oberdan —watch out for the Concorso Cortometraggi Africani section to get acquainted with new talents representing Burkina Faso, Namibia, Kenya, Madagascar and Ethiopia.

As the creators of AfricaAfrica explain, this exhibition “breaks with stereotypes, with the obsolete imaginary of the needy and helpless continent, and offers a vision for the future that represents a source of inspiration for the whole world.”

The exhibition is on display at Palazzo Litta Cultura from March 15 until April 2. Note that there’s a panel every Thursday at 18h30: on March 15, the topic is contemporary African creativity; on March 22 the theme is sustainable energy, while the March 29 discussion is set around the re-use possibilities of waste in slums.

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One of Hamed Ouattara's steel artifacts
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A piece by Soweto-born Andile Buka, whose commercial alter ego has produced campaigns for the likes of Adidas and Superga
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A piece from the Unomgcana series by South African artist Nobukho Nqaba. The title is the Xhosa word for the lined mesh bag popular in the country but made in China.
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A portrait by Senegalese photographer Omar Victor Diop
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