SMATI Turtle 1: On the road with an African-made car

Melle Smets and Joost van Onna collaborate with local Ghanaian craftsmen to create an African car.

Part of the Project

SMATI Turtle 1, a project by Melle Smets and Joost van Onna saw the duo follow the trail of Europe’s discarded vehicles to capitalism’s periphery.

The journey led them to learn about System D’ or Système Débrouillardise – the capacity to be able to think on your feet, to adapt and to improvise in order to finish a job properly.

In the Ghanaian neighbourhood of Suami Magazine, over 200 000 craftsmen recycle discarded car scrap. In this immense open-air factory, cars are transformed into "African" cars. Simple, strong and cheap adjustments make them suitable for the African road.

In a place where craftsmanship, knowledge of recycling, ingenuity and self-sufficiency rule everyday life, Smets and Van Onna collaborated with local, resourceful craftsmen and were inspired to create a new, characteristic African car: the SMATI Turtle 1. The car took its name from its characteristics including slow but steady speed, its basic and strong mechanics and its protective bodywork.

The SMATI Turtle 1 was featured as part of Design Indaba Expo’s Africa is Now exhibition under the theme “Africa is Transformed”, which looked at African's make-do approach to materiality, transforming what’s at hand into unexpected objects and designs that delight. 

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