Building Cultures: Making in Nairobi, Lagos, Accra, and Johannesburg
Nifemi Marcus-Bello, Naeem Biviji, Thabisa Mjo, and DK Osseo-Asare, in conversation with Mpho Matsipa.
Introduction by Josh Jordan
Building Cultures: Making will explore the work of four makers working in different media who are focused on the process of production as much as the product. What is the potential impact of maker culture on manufacturing, technology, and construction ecologies in each of these contexts? Can retrofitting or reinventing existing/defunct/overlooked infrastructures and technologies scale and be replicated? How can designers co-create with laborers and users while moving towards sustainable production?
Nifemi Marcus Bello is the founder of nmbello Studio, an Industrial Design practice located in the heart of Lagos, Nigeria, with a focus on product, furniture and experience design for both local and international clients. The practice creates sustainable and economically viable products and solutions by identifying underutilized or neglected production techniques and technology. With human and material sustainability in mind, the studio prides itself in considering human, material, production and economical integrity in its design process, while taking into great consideration the ecosystem, stakeholders and users of the final product.
Naeem Biviji is the co-founder of Studio Propolis with partner Bethan Rayner. Studio Propolis is a Nairobi-based design workshop founded in 2005. Biviji and Rayner each hold a Masters of Architecture from The University of Edinburgh. Their work combines a formal education as architects with informal training as furniture makers. They are passionate about making things and work with different materials across disciplines and scales. The relationship between locally available materials and their own craft culture informs how they make and design. It is through their direct involvement in the process of making in the workshop that forms the core of the studio’s practice. The ability to continually test ideas through prototyping and production underpins this methodology. It has given Propolis the space to innovate and experiment, building an intimate knowledge of how things are made and how to build locally. Their commissions have been diverse and projects range from the design and construction of buildings to prototyping furniture and manufacturing small runs that make up an on-going collection of pieces including furniture for the April 2019 IKEA Överallt collection.
Mpho Matsipa is a researcher at the Wits City Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. She has a degree in architecture from the University of Cape Town and a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. Her PhD, The Order of Appearances, explored the entangled geographies of urban informality, urban redevelopment and the politics of race, gender and aesthetics in Johannesburg’s inner city. Matsipa has written critical essays and reviews on public art, culture and space for Art South Africa, The Architectural Review and Thesis 11 (forthcoming), and has curated several exhibitions, including African Mobilities: This is Not a Refugee Camp at Architekturmuseum der TU München and that of the South African Pavilion at the XI International Architecture Exhibition, Venice Biennale (2008). She has been an adjunct assistant professor of architecture and associate research scholar at Columbia GSAPP.
Thabisa Mjo is the founder of the Johannesburg-based Mash.T Design Studio, a studio focused on telling uniquely South African stories using the medium of design. She is the curator of Sacrosanct, the first collective showing of South African design at Milan Design Week 2019. She was awarded “designer of the most beautiful object in South Africa” for her Tutu 2.0 Pendant Light in 2018 by Design Indaba, in 2017 she received the “Future Found Award” from Design Foundation and 100% Design South Africa “best product design” and “best-emerging talent” in 2016.
DK Osseo-Asare is co-founder and principal of architecture and integrated design studio Low Design Office (LOWDO), based in Austin, Texas and Tema, Ghana. He currently holds a triple appointment at Penn State as an assistant professor of architecture and engineering design, he is also the director of the Humanitarian Materials Lab (HuMatLab) and associate director of AESEDA, Penn State’s Alliance for Education, Science, Engineering and Design with Africa. Osseo-Asare is a TED Global Fellow, Fulbright Scholar, and Africa 4 Tech Digital Champion. He co-founded the design agency DSGN AGNC (2009-2011) and the Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform (AMP), an open-source maker tech initiative geared for Africa.
Free and open to the public. Organized by Columbia GSAPP in collaboration with Mpho Matsipa, School of Architecture and Planning, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.