Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sport, Design and African Art

I'm surrounded by a sea of colour: emerald greens and passionate reds; defining blacks and sandy yellows; rich golds and peaceful whites. I'm at the Design Museum, and in the company of sport at the PUMA Interpretations of Africa: Football, Art and Design exhibition. 

It's wonderful here! I feel inspired by the new football kits, designed for each of the 10 teams who will be participating in the 2012 African Nations Cup in January. The kits, each designed by artists who hail from the teams' nations, are a wonderful symbol of strength and unity within a highly competitive sport. I feel privileged; permitted to take in the process of design, from conception to finished product and really get a chance to view an area of football, a sport I love (I'm a Gooner, for all you footie fans!) and know so well. There is also a homely feel to being at this exhibit among the great African nations teams. Originally from Ghana, one of the qualifiers, I felt a wonderful sense of pride.

From left:
Togo by El Loko and Ghana by Godfried Donker

It is here at the Design Museum, London that Africa has come to display one of its many artistic talents. The exhibition focuses on the brief put forth by PUMA Creative to the commissioned artists of each qualifying national team for the design of their national football get-up. The artists then had to create pieces inspired by their country's heritage and culture; and in keeping with Puma's design brief, which included the focus on "National Symbols", "National flag colours", "Joy", "Speed" and "Rhythm"; artists also had to adhere to FIFA's strict equipment regulations, including, 'No element may be reflective or change colour/appearance" and producing highly distinguishable kits, made clear to "Players, match officials, spectators and (the) media".

The finished product: 10 representational pieces of hi-tech football equipment; each a glowing symbol of love and pride, and an ode to its nation. All glorious, all splendid.


The exhibition is a simple yet focused one. Visitors will get a real taste for the design process and the thought and effort that went into creating the kits. The information on each of the artists and the designs is thorough, and respectively pays tribute to their talents and their creations.

It is a beautiful exhibition, with, I might add, a lovely and warming video presentation on entrance. A fascinating look into the design of such seemingly normal sports attire. This exhibit is a love letter to design and a tribute to African football.

Cameroon by Barthelemy Toguo 

South Africa by Hasan and Husein Essop

Namibia by Hentie van der Merwe

Algeria by Zineb Sedira

Ivory Coast by Ernest Duku

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