Jungle Jim turns heads in Milan

Local pulp-fiction zine takes over windows of popular department store La Rinascente during Milan design week

Mysterious African virus sweeps through the streets of Milan! Tourists outside the Duomo fall into a voodoo trance! Crowds descend on La Rinascente department store to see world’s first chimpanzee astronaut!

Cape Town-based pulp-fiction zine Jungle Jim caused a creative jolt worthy of its own sensational content when La Rinascente department store in Milan depicted six cover stories in its windows during the week of Salone del Mobile, also known as Milan Furniture Fair and Milan Design Week. The shop is one of the most popular department stores in the country and takes up the width of a city block opposite the famous Duomo cathedral.

Each of the store’s six windows depicted a three-dimensional illustration from Jungle Jim, brought to life using set-design techniques by London-based illustrator Emily Forgot. The windows were a promotion for Afrofuture, a mash-up programme of events held in La Rinascente’s "Design Supermarket" basement during what is still the largest design gathering on the global design calendar.

Put together by British curator Beatrice Galilee, Afrofuture was an energetic lab-space-come-gathering-point featuring a dynamic mix of events. It featured workshops on Kane Kwei carpentry where participants could design their own Ghanaian-inspired fantasy coffin, "Improbable Africa" which tasked creatives with designing solutions for the future, led by Design Indaba Conference alumni speaker Daisy Ginsberg and Cher Potter, and an on-site newsdesk manned by Go West Project’s researchers documenting China’s influence in Africa. 

The five-day programme also featured quick-fire presentations by thinkers and creatives from all over Africa, including Design Indaba Expo Manager Kelly Berman, and a "Galactic Zine Workshop", in which participants wrote, illustrated, laid out, printed and assembled a new issue for Jungle Jim.

The challenge was to create a choose-your-own-sci-fi-adventure mini-zine in two hours, said Jungle Jim founders Jenna Bass and Hannes Bernard. 

The pair travelled to Milan to lead the workshop.

We hooked up six Jungle Jim authors from South Africa, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Nigeria live on Facebook for the first hour to mad-lib a sci-fi story on the theme of a future Africa-colonised planet.

The narrative was ultimately determined by participants in-store and online, who voted for their favourite storyline. The mini-zine was inserted as a centrefold in a special-edition copy of Jungle Jim 21.

The publication features the work of writers and illustrators from all over Africa. Bass and Bernard were inspired by “the golden days of pulp publishing, when short fiction was popular entertainment, non-elitist and accessible.” They found their niche and quickly discovered others who felt the same way.

One of their contributors is illustrator and comic artist Sebastian Borckenhagen, an Emerging Creative at Design Indaba Expo 2012, whose story entitled “A Story About a Chimpanzee in Space” was turned into a window featuring the image of a chimpanzee peering out of a spaceship porthole.

Bass is a writer and filmmaker working on a supernatural noir feature film set in Cape Town, while Bernard, a graphic designer, splits his time between Sao Paulo and Amsterdam, where he is conducting research at the Sandberg Instituut.

To them it is no surprise that a publication like Jungle Jim has come out of South Africa.

The apartheid-era spin on pulp was fascinating and revealing, and can be looked upon both fondly and cynically, as it often enforced the status-quo, they explained.

On the other hand, DIY publishing played an important role in the resistance against apartheid.

“Both of these forms expanded and depicted our national identities in a remarkable way, and I think people are again seeing the potential for their use now – in new ways to inspire reading and communicate ideas, encourage self-expression, as well as to entertain,” Bass added.

She said it was both bizarre and fascinating to see the magazine take on a life of its own in a different context.

It was wonderful to know it was being seen by so many new pairs of eyes.

Design Indaba Expo Manager Kelly Berman will be talking about Afrofuture at trendtalk#5 on Tuesday 23 April from 15h30 to 17h00 at the Plascon Design Centre Auditorium, 71 Waterkant St, Cape Town. Other speakers are Alayne Reesberg, CEO of WDC2014, and experiential artist Daniel Popper.



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