Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design
Blanton Museum of Art, Through January 6
by Neal Baker
The Blanton’s ongoing exhibition “Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design” is a remarkable traveling showcase organized by the Vitra Design Museum and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. It gives a look into art, film, photography, architecture, fashion and other forms of creation coming from a long list of African countries, where artists and makers are shaped more and more by new economic growth and their placement amid the globalizing force of the information age.
The continent is, of course, a very big place, and it might seem uncritical to present it all together in this way, but in a sense this is exactly the issue being addressed. Parts of the exhibit respond to the Western tendency to homogenize Africa, dispelling lingering stereotypes and presenting designs in their individual cultural contexts to the end of encouraging investigation into each local tradition and how it is changing. This contextualization is achieved through the juxtaposition of contemporary art and objects with documentation of the postcolonial era that would eventually birth the cultures belonging to the creators whose work is on display.
The exhibit exists in a multimedia capacity, with portions of the collection delegated to a dedicated website that acts as an archive of news, interviews and profiles, giving an even deeper look into the creative landscape to be found across Africa. Austin is the physical collection’s last stop on its current tour, with the exhibition closing January 6, but the show will survive and continue to expand in its other forms.