Merging of culture
The Afro- Asian creative theme is the merging of Asian and African cultural aesthetics, artistic techniques and traditional symbolism which explores the creator’s identity, personal experiences and social commentary.
China and Japan have invested largely in various African countries. Which has seen a mix of different cultures joining forces, creating business opportunities to push forward what is deemed to be industrial growth in various sectors in Africa. This has further extended the question and analysis of the perception Asian countries have of Africans. Books such as The image of the black in African and Asian art, uncovers the influence African and Asian countries have had on each other in the creative sector. The books asks how the black figure was depicted by artists from the non-Western world. It focuses on the figure of the black as rendered by artists from Africa, East Asia and Indian sub-continent.
Afro-Asian design theme sees artists create work that highlights fusion of African and Asian cultural influences that create an altered narrative of cultural appreciation. While on the other spectrum Afro Asian art sees social commentary by African artists which provokes audience thoughts towards mass consumption, cheap material and Africa’s new colonialist rule.
The use of beading techniques, upcycling symbolic material and consideration of saturated earth tones brings forth the cultural similarities of these two continents. While creating conversation on the differences and influence of the two through visual communication.
Cameroon born Serge Mouange created the WAfrica project when he lived in Japan as an industrial designer for the car brand Nissan. His appreciation for Japan inspired him to creatively fuse the Japanese and West African culture within his work. Which lead to the establishment of WAfrica project. WAfrica aims to encapsulate both cultural aesthetics to create a new narrative of refining our sense of origin. This saw the collaboration of WAfrica African Kimono with ODASHO.
Serge states that Africa and Japan share striking cultural similarities such as the belief in spirits, the understanding of ages and the hierarchy that comes with it. The artist is currently working on a fragrance that combines subtle essence from African tropical rainforest with extracts from Japanese mountain flowers.
Afro – Asian Accessories
Ugandan brand Kona creates minimal geometric shaped accessories. The fashion conscious brand transforms waste such as mineral water bottles into elegant necklaces. The design aesthetic is an integration of raw African boldness juxtaposed with Asian simplicity.
Taiwanese born, South African based designer Michelle Liao merges her cultural aesthetic to her African surroundings. Her brand Michl is a jewellery collection of elegant lines emerged with traditional elements.
‘I love the big, bold statements of African adornment and dress. I take inspiration from this and add an Eastern simplicity’
Michl’s latest collection is a selection of hair combs. Which represent a mixed heritage. The diversity comb, moulded in a traditional African shape, from a playful woven bright wire. The comb is gold, plated brass decorated with white ceramic petals which is reminiscent of traditional konzashai hair ornaments in Taiwanese culture.
Founded by Olubunmi Adeyemi, Afrominima is a lifestyle and homeware brand in Nigeria. Which creates minimalist items such as wooden spoons, platters and spice bowls. Adeyemi has a deep appreciation of the Japanese minimalist aesthetic and functional Scandinavian style .Which he has infused with his own African heritage, to create work that is distinctively uncomplicated yet conceptually complex. Adeyemis designs explore what he believes is Africa’s ‘untapped goldmine of creativity, contributing to an artistic movement that is connecting the continents history with its potential through grit, determination of its creative minds’.
Artists are highlighting the impact Asian countries Japan and China have in Africa. By bringing forth the influence these countries currently have in various African countries. This sheds awareness to the mass production, conspicuous consumption and colonial practices observed by African artists.
Kenyan artist Michael Soi’s China loves Africa is a sartorial commentary on the relationship between China and Africa. Soi depicts Africa as a sex worker pleasing her Chinese overlords.
Zimbabwean self-proclaimed ‘spiritual garbage man’ Moffat Takadiwa brings life to waste material while elevating social issues. The Vendors Teeth Tight sculptors are made of plastic computer keys and bottle caps remade into traditional tribal pattern. Takadiwa paid street kids in Harare to collect discarded Chinese plastic goods.
‘ China is offering us a raw deal, they are taking Africa’s natural resources and in return flooding the continent with cheap plastic items that are replacing traditional African cultural items’