Hearing in Johannesburg, South Africa
23 – 25 February 2020, in cooperation with Greenside Design Center
The 26 participants are currently working in 11 countries (Lebanon, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Dubai and India). They represent design practice as employed and independent designers, as design teachers and theoreticians at universities, as networkers and planners in government agencies and professional associations, and as managers and consultants. The interdisciplinary cooperation that is characteristic of design is reflected in the experts’ various fields of activity – from business and administration to organizational development and from social entrepreneurship to design with a focus on communication, product, textile, UX and interiors.
What was discussed?
Compared to the previous hearings in Gmund am Tegernsee (Germany), Pasadena (USA) and Kyoto (Japan), a special thematic focus was the relationship between design and community. Among other things, the relationship of design to traditional practices in African and Indian cultures plays an important role. Design is often perceived as a consequence of colonization by western industrial societies, which focus on the individual as an autonomous subject of an objectified society.
In contrast, community and nature as the material and spiritual basis of life play a more significant role in African and Indian cultures. This point seemed particularly stimulating from the perspective that aspects such as sustainability and cooperation are currently receiving enormous attention in the international debate. Thus, it was discussed what the western-dominated design discourse can learn from such traditions for future development.
A second focus was the discussion on African cultural concepts, for example on what is referred to as the inner eye: the manual execution and visualization of a design must be preceded by an inner image, a skill based on that ability. In addition, the ‘wisdom’ of traditional, anonymous artefacts was discussed in contrast to the undisputed stupidity of many industrial products.