Saturday, 29 September 2007

Nigeria- By Accident or Design?

The Famous Dutch Architect Rem Koolhaas contends that Lagos represents the future for the western megacity. A group of design students of Nigerian descent projected ambitiously that Nigeria would become the design capital of West Africa by 2020. In their projection, Lagos is the capital of West Africa and 95% of the populations commute by surface rail.

On Thursday July 19, 2007, Jeremy Weate, a Nigerian by adoption wrote on his acridly controversial blog: “How about taking the most ambivalent of objects- the Nigerian passport and turning it, through creative means, into the most positive statement of a progressive Nigerian identity?” Predating Mr.Weate’s proposition, Nigerian Blufunk artist Keziah Jones’ employed the theme of the Nigerian passport for the cover of his albums Black Orpheus and Black Orpheus Limited in 2003 and 2004 respectively-

Leke Alder a Nigerian Image consultant solves social and economic challenges with the tools and principles of design. With his legal background and creative abilities he redesigns the brand of banks, embassies and nations. Leke Alder was enlisted by the Nigerian government to rebrand the nation. He rebranded Nigeria using a mixture of in your face and familiar design concepts to position the country as the Heart of Africa.

These people have one thing in common, a vision for a greater Nigeria that is restlessly globalizing, but is propelled forward by a strong design culture whether tangible or intangible.

However rebuilding Nigeria requires more than the work a few, but the cohesive efforts of an army of brand and design consultants who are constantly being stimulated by ideas from within and without.

Whether or not we are conscious of it, a sense of design aesthetics pervades every level of the Nigerian society, from the ghana-must go bag which now graces international catwalk to the multi-coloured flip flop slippers and the mobile architecture of the danfos and molue signage.

The antecedents to this contemporary design culture can be found in the lost wax of 15th century ancient Benin, 2000 year old Nok terracotta, the Nsibidi hieroglyphics of the Ekpe, the soap stones of Esi in contemporary Ilorin. The Yoruba tie’n’dye cloth art, aso oke and many more. Unfortunately, beyond adornment and sartorial detail, most of this design heritage is not being used today as a spring board to project contemporary concerns in the way modernist painters such as Picasso and Matisse used African design sensibilities to give to rise to European modernism.

Dubai was created in 1971. 25 years later it has evolved from third to a first world country and has become a favorite holiday destination amongst Nigerians. As a result Nigerians have reportedly begun spending their disposable income in the Emirate instead of England. This has prompted the British Embassy in Nigeria to begin issuing visas to Nigerians with renewed and competitive vigor. Dubai earns 3% of its revenue through petroleum and natural gas, but year after year, a greater percentage of their income is earned through tourism. Similarly Singapore, the city state of wonder in South East Asia became an independent nation from Malaysia in 1965. The mainstay of the country is gained through tourism and the magical features which the country boasts of today were completely designed through the dedicated efforts of a few mavericks. Today, Singapore is the 18th wealthiest country in the world.

Futuristic countries like Singapore and Dubai are established testimonies to the fact that first world countries can be made not by accident but by design aesthetics projected and built line by line, colour by colour, texture for texture and brick by brick. In order to begin our march towards a design culture for Nigeria we must embrace the culture of deliberate design; a culture that insists that our space life becomes the exact blueprint of our design culture.


Image sourced from True Love South Africa



"In order to begin our march towards a design culture for Nigeria we must embrace the culture of deliberate design; a culture that insists that our space life becomes the exact blueprint of our design culture."

Me likey!

Isi said...

our design must be conscious and original. we must first learn to appreciate and embrace all things nigerian. we must promote and support what is ours. we must depend and rely on ourselves and our abilities. we must believe that the nigerian mind can be as productive as any other anywhere else in the world.
it is a long journey, but we'll get there- one step at a time...
nice piece!