Telling stories through colour

Design Indaba partners with Google to showcase the continent's creatives through "Colours of Africa".

As Africans, we tell powerful stories through colour, and today’s launch of “Colours of Africa” by Design Indaba in partnership with Google Arts & Culture brings this vividly to life. The unique online project showcases 60 specially curated artworks produced by over 60 African creatives, each invited to contribute a work that captures the colour and character of their home country.

“Africa is known for its bold, unapologetic use of colour. Each country, city and community is identifiable by its unique palette,” says Design Indaba’s founder Ravi Naidoo, who selected the featured creatives from a wide range of disciplines, from architecture, illustration, painting and ceramics through to writing, engineering, the performing arts and visual communications. Their creations have been converted into images, videos, texts and illustrations, showcasing the best of African craft, product, industrial design, fashion, film, animation, graphic, food, music, jewellery and architecture. The multidisciplinary mix of artists includes Algerian photographer Ramzy Bensaadi, fashion designer Bisrat Negassi from Eritrea, filmmaker Archange Kiyindou “Yamakasi” from the Republic of Congo and visual artist Ngadi Smart from Sierra Leone.

The first artistic undertaking of this scale, the project enables viewers to discover the stories of Africa as told by the African creative community. The artworks are showcased online, where users are invited to spin a kaleidoscope to explore the works in a virtual journey through the palette of Africa, viewing each country through the eyes of a local artist. “This project tells a story of a continent through a universally accessible lens,” says Naidoo.

To bring the project to life, Design Indaba enlisted former Design Indaba conference speaker Noel Pretorius and his creative partner, Elin Sjöberg, who collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab to create the design concept and interface for the digital exhibition. The kaleidoscopic navigation tool can be used to explore the art in a randomised way, giving the visitor a unique experience while allowing the art itself to shine.

Nothing of this kind has been done before, says Naidoo. “We’re very excited to break new ground. This is an important artistic catalogue, the first of its kind to plot the expanse of African artistry on Google Arts & Culture. We salute Google for taking this important step to provide the world with a resource like this – not everyone can afford to travel here, or access physical art fairs and museums to view this kind of work.”

“Google has always been acutely aware and in full support of the immense creative melting pot that exists on the continent,” says Nitin Gajria, managing director at Google. “Collaborating with Design Indaba on this project allows us to bring this support to fruition. By empowering and amplifying African voices to tell the unique stories of their cultures through their creativity, we hope to provide much-needed exposure, cultivate a newfound curiosity, and open a window onto the vast beauty that exists on the continent.”

In addition to the “Colours of Africa” platform, the initiative incorporates the launch of over 4 000 images and videos and 20 carefully curated exhibits from Design Indaba’s extensive archive. Award-winning initiatives like Sheltersuit, Arch for Arch and Emerging Creatives are extensively profiled online for the first time. New works by some of the most important creatives working on the continent and abroad are displayed. These include Fozia Ismail, who was a featured creative on Serpentine Gallery’s Creative Exchange programme; Mayada Adil El Sayed, who represented Sudanese women at the Generation Equality Forum; and Lady Skollie, the winner of the 10th FNB art prize.

Gajria says, “We look forward to giving viewers a ticket to experiencing a whole new world, one that is outside of their everyday surroundings and creative knowledge. This project answers the vital call for all to notice and embrace African art in all its wonder.”

Design Indaba, which celebrated its 25th year in 2020, draws top thinkers and guests from across the globe. Acknowledged as the world’s leading design conference, it continues to foreground African creativity, making it the logical home for this project.


As part of the project launch, Design Indaba commissioned South African multidisciplinary artist and activist Lebo Mashile to compose an original piece of poetry that celebrates “Colours of Africa” coming into its own.

Colours of Africa


Eyes flutter in slumbering darkness 

The sky, a skin of midnight hues


Dawn shakes the dreamscape of white wonder

As the sun and a continent come into view

A curtain of light is pulled back

On the glow where sand caresses sea

Rich rust

Golden dust

Love red regalia

Awakened orange energy


Yellow sparks of illuminated millions

Contrast the lush sustenance of green

Digital diversity dipped in black

Bold as cobalt

Ochre as ancestry

Polyrhythmic purple passion

Spirit of violet swirling in citrus seasons

Elegant as obsidian

Resilient as everlasting moss


Retreat into reflective perception

On mango trees, Niamy earth

The ocean in my palm, agu

Nourished by contradictions

The gilded dream of colours

that never leave me alone

Joyeuse Jaune de la memoire [joyous yellow of memory]

Botala Ba mme [blue of my mother]

La flamme noire [the black flame]

Heart of bread and rivers

Songs and stories of my bone

Amazing blue brown shelter

Where my hues blend into you, is home

Explore the continent through the eyes of the inspired. To view Colours of Africa, visit: on Google Arts & Culture. 

For more information on Design Indaba, visit

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