In honor of Black History Month SCI-Arc has created a collection of videos featuring lectures from its Media Archive to highlight and amplify the critical work of influential black and African American creators and thinkers within the architecture and design community.
At SCI-Arc’s September 13, 2020 graduation ceremony, commencement speaker Dr. Safiya Umoja Noble challenges the graduating students, “to ask yourself what are the values and the models that you are developing as you organize your own work, when many of the models and the values in computing, in entertainment, in education, in politics, in healthcare are indeed failing us—they are just insufficient to meet the needs of the majority of people in our society.”
“On Futures” is a series highlighting how designers, artists, curators, and writers envision alternative cultural and architectural temporalities that map out an expansive range of possible futures. Brooklyn-based visual artist Olalekan Jeyifous creates work that critiques the present by looking at the past and the future. Trained in architecture at Cornell University, he blends techniques and skills from the field with speculation drawn from a range of science fiction imaginaries from Afrofuturism to Solarpunk—a genre that envisions possible ecological futures under climate crisis. Best-known for his digital illustrations in the series, Shantytown Megastructures, an imagined Lagos, Nigeria in which contemporary ad hoc construction practices are extrapolated into fantastical vertical settlements, his practice crosses between disciplines and mediums, taking shape as drawings, films, and installations. Jeyifous’ work has been shown at the Shenzhen Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Guggenheim Bilbao. His large-scale public artworks were shown at Coachella in 2017 and recently along the waterfront in Alexandria, Virginia. He is one of the participants in the 2020-21 cycle of Exhibit Columbus and the upcoming MoMA exhibition, Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America.
After being introduced by Hernán Díaz Alonso, Elsie Owusu discusses in depth a project for “A gallery for returning treasures” (GRT) in Kumasi Ghana. She describes the global movement for the restitution of cultural property and the significance of African artifacts lost through colonialism and theft, focusing on the material heritage of the Astante Empire. She describes how this project is linked to a Kumasi City Hall Complex, currently in development.
At 27:50. Owuso shares “Akrafokonmu / Soul Washer’s Badge”, an audio work incorporating sounds, music and text, inspired by the heroism of Queen Mother Yaa Asantewaa (1840-1921) in the War of the Golden Stool, the Ashanti uprising against the British Empire in 1900.
At 32:30, Hernán Díaz Alonso and Owuso discuss the behavior of objects in terms of political relationships. Owuso stresses the magic contained in “that silent communication between architects, the public realm, and artifacts”.