Cultural Influence in the Digital Age.
As a Digital Designer, I derive inspiration from my African culture because I believe we know better where we to go when we know where we came from. In a digital age where identity can easily be lost, how do we connect with our roots?
At first glance, graphic design is rarely related to Africa, for both cultural and historical reasons. The importance of the oral tradition and the recent dominance of European languages by colonialism, led to the idea that African languages as a whole had no written forms, or that they had been designed very recently. We should move away from the old colonialist perspective on the African and actually allow ourselves to inspire and be inspired by each other.
We usually associate the origin of graphic design with the discovery of Gutenberg’s printing process back in the fifteenth century. Lacking sufficient printing and industrial structures, the printed materials were never really able to bloom in Africa. Therefore, the Roman alphabet (and with it the entire Western graphics) have been spread in African cities through advertising.
From my country’s (Ghana) Adinkra symbols that are centuries old, to geometric decorations painted on the walls of houses by South African women… through the alphabets designed in the early twentieth century in Guinea to the patterns of wax fabrics worn in West Africa, the African continent is actually filled with colorful concepts and designs of its own. A new generation is emerging thanks to this graphic legacy and the impulse of Saki Mafundikwa. I got inspired after watching his TedTalk, hence, the writing of this article.
In my first article on medium, “Trust the Process” — I expressed my desire to find an inner sense of knowing that guided me through my journey. As a digital designer from Ghana, I strongly believe the African has both a long tradition of design dating back centuries ago, as well as a defined design sensibility.
This belief helped me identify with a unique symbol in the Adinkra called Dame-dame. The literal meaning of Dame-Dame is chequered or checkered as in the pattern on a chess or a draughts board. A symbol of intelligence, ingenuity, and strategy. I learnt that having a platform to question and further ideas, harnesses greater creativity. Combining art and technology I found a way to express myself with pixels. I get so immersed in my design process that I lose sense of the world around me sometimes.
The problem today, is that, Designer’s in Africa struggle with all forms of design. Because they are more opt to look outwards for influence and inspiration. The creative tradition is as potent as it has always been, if only designers could look within. ~ Saki Mafundikwa
Evolve or die!
In the past few years, it seems that African influence is gradually coming back. It would be valuable that European designers start considering African creation out of the exotic prism.
Nowadays, with the rise of the digital craze, things are starting to change. Young African people start to have more and more interest for graphic design and end up developing their own particular style and identity. This new generation gives birth to symbols, patterns… a whole traditional graphic culture. This new creativity deserves great respect, and we should welcome this new inspiring approach.
I also urge all designers to also search within, we all have our roots, and that is the birth place for our sense of creativity.