N’Golà Biennial highlights the impact creatives have on society

For three weeks, the island of São Tomé e Príncipe was taken over by artists from across the continent.

The opening weekend of the N'gola Biennial on the island of São Tomé brought together artists and designers from different African countries including Angola, DR Congo, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Togo and Uganda.

Under the curation of former Design Indaba speaker and co-founder of Dutch design company Droog, Renny Ramakers, the biennial was not only a celebration of African creativity but also a way of shining a light on the impact the work of creatives has on the continent.

N'gola Festival exhibition were held at the CACAU arts space

During the exhibitions, which took place at the recently re-opened CACAU arts space (above), the work of visual artists and architects like the likes of Mary Sibande, Sarah Waiswa, Mariam Kamara, Osborne Macharia, Sethembile Msezane, Joana Choumai, Victor Omar Diop and more was exhibited.

The work of the invited artists was exhibited alongside other works commissioned specifically for the 8th N'Gola Biennial. 

These included a 90 meter curtain (above) that was displayed at the entrance to the exhibition. The curtain was a collaboration between textile artist, Nikkie Wester, and 25 people from Sao Tome that she trained for four weeks to weave and dye banana fibre. 

Together they are realising a curtain of 90 meters long destined for the interior of the cultural centre CACAU.

The team had been working together since 2016 on the project.

  South African artist Mary Sibande's work on exhibition

 The Design Indaba team also had the pleasure of organising a day of panel discussions between participants that had been invited to the biennial. 

The talks gave the creatives a platform about a range of topics that affect their work.

These included the continent's digital future, the role that identity and freedom of expression plays in their work as well as looking at the future of creativity on the continent through the lens of young artists at the festival.


Salooni, a multidisciplinary art project that posits black hair practices as systems of knowledge through which culture and survivalist strategies are passed from generation to generation, had a conceptual art installation that focussed on hair (above).

The four Ugandan creatives behind the project imagine a future where Afro-textured hair is no longer a painful subject for Black women. Through these installations they create a safe space for black women where their hair issues are elevated to a culture and site of knowledge.

See more of what you missed, including a performance called In their Finest Robes the Children Shall Return by Sunny Dolat:

NGOLÁ 2019 | Celebrating the Power and Beauty of African Arts and Culture from N'GOLÁ on Vimeo.

Watch the Talk with Renny Ramakers