The Pavilion of the African Diaspora has launched at the London Design Biennale, which runs until 27 June 2021. During the four weeks of the biennale, the pavilion will feature specialised talks, curated one-on-one interviews, exclusive panel discussions and music of the African Diaspora. Its aim is to celebrate the evolution of African heritage and the contributions of people of African Descent.
The biennale itself comprises 38 exhibitions from across six continents, all considering the vital role of design in addressing global challenges in response to the theme ‘Resonance’. These exhibitors were chosen by the biennale’s Artistic Director Es Devlin, who is a former #DI Speaker.
The pavilion is designed by #DI Global Graduate Ini Archibong. Architectural and construction oversight was by Zena Howard, who is the award-winning Principal Architect and Managing Partner at Perkins + Will. The pavilion is managed by Tamara N Houston, the founder of heritage development enterprise ICON MANN, published author, and entertainment producer.
It is a travelling installation in three phases, running until 2023, with each phase comprising an architectural folly set in distinct geographic locations. Each of the three follies will serve as a mobile destination spotlighting the diverse histories of persons of African descent - an important zone where people of the African Diaspora can congregate under a unified goal.
“I have created a space for the people of the diaspora to bring their voices, thoughts, and opinions. The three follies will serve as a space to tell our stories and to envision a future where our voices are recognized and respected,” says Archibong.
The first of the three architectural follies is located on the River Terrace of the historic Somerset House in London. Entitled The Sail, this folly represents both past and present.
“The structure symbolises our ability to reclaim the tools of our oppressors and looks towards the future. Manifested as reverberant sound waves overtaking a billowing sail, this folly stands as a reminder of how many of our ancestors were brutally removed from their homeland,” explains the designer.
Archibong, who is American of Nigerian heritage, saw Devlin’s theme of Resonance as an opportunity to use design as a catalyst for conversations around race and equality. “My aim was to embody the resonance of the black voice through three architectural follies. I am simply a vessel. I have used my design skills to manifest what I believe is an appropriate space for people of the diaspora to express themselves,” he adds.
Archibong’s second folly, called The Wave, will debut in New York in the northern hemisphere’s autumn of 2021. The Wave is a physical manifestation of resonant frequencies being crystalized in a metallic form. The series of curves is a nod to traditional African beaded adornments.
The final folly, The Shell, is set to show at Miami Basel. This is an abstracted combination of conch and cowrie shells.
“The conch symbolises the chamber out of which Black voices can resonate and the hope that from distant shores comes the resounding trumpet call for the people of the African Diaspora to assemble and unite. The cowrie on the other hand, speaks to currency. In the past, it was used as a form of trade across Africa and various parts of the world,” Archibong explains.
Visit poad2021.org and londondesignbiennale.com.
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Portraits: Julian Anderson
Render: Jori Brown, Ebony Lerandy and Maxwell Engelmann for L.M.N.O. Creative
Installation: Ed Reeve