Looking back at Building Beyond Lab week during Dak’Art in Senegal
At last, the 12 talented African makers and designers selected under the Building Beyond mentorship programme were able to meet in person from 17 to 21 June 2022 in Dakar, Senegal. After a series of Zoom sessions led by four mentors (Khensani de Klerk, Ola Hassanain, Sénamé Koffi Agbodjinou and Selly Raby Kane), everyone could hardly wait to really get to know each other, exchange different perspectives and have in-depth conversations about important social issues during the course of a week.
12 July 2022
Early this year, the first round of the Building Beyond mentorship programme was launched, a special collaboration between the Creative Industries Fund NL and the Prince Claus Fund. This alternative educational programme focuses on thought leadership, stimulating critical thinking and reframing design-based activities. Through design and creative problem-solving, the participants try to devise a new future for their own city. All 12 participants work in different countries, including Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda and South Africa.
After getting acquainted, it was immediately clear that every participant, just like the design field in the Netherlands, is working on the same global urban challenges and social themes. Examples include designing more green and safe public spaces, creating more awareness of the consequences of (super)rapid urbanization, and encouraging citizen participation in developing urban policies. But an important difference is that these makers and designers need even more strength and commitment to work within often-complex financial, political, social and ecological contexts.
The busy city of Dakar is a place full of contrasts, with a painful colonial history, and at the same time has a growing young generation with an abundance of energy for the future. Art and culture can be found everywhere in the city and that makes it an interesting place for this lab week, which took place in the context of the Dak’Art Biennale. The programme consisted of the presentation of everyone’s project, visits to the Dak’Art Biennale and various design institutions (including Black Rock Residency, Dakar Design Hub and RAW Material Company), workshops by local designers (including industrial designer Bibi Seck and architect Fadiyah Diene), a visit to the colonial-historically important island of Gorée, and a meeting with the Dutch ambassador Joan Wiegman. At the same time, the 4 mentors gave the participants personal feedback on their projects and organized daily reflection, or ‘imbizo’ sessions. There were many conversations about the contribution of design to decolonization and the creation of more sustainable and inclusive cities and societies. These are themes that connect seamlessly to the bienniale’s theme Ndaffa, Forger / Out of the fire’ which focuses on shaping a new way of thinking rooted in African cultures, experiences and stories.
The participants will continue working on their projects online in the coming period, but luckily they will meet up one more time soon. In October, they will be in the Netherlands during Dutch Design Week 2022 to meet local makers and designers, learn from each other, get inspired and explore possible new collaborations. We are already looking forward to welcoming them!
Text: grant officer Internationalization Yasmin Kursun
Photos: Jean-Baptiste Joire and Yasmin Kursun