Design Manifesto

Words by: Sean O'Toole

Mami Wata is a design-led brand, and the stories we tell, the fonts, graphics, colours, ideas and patterns we use, are all informed by our cultural context, Africa. Right now, our cultural context is recalibrating. Africa, a continent of 1.2 billion people, is changing.

Mami Wata

The skittering energy is palpable. African-inspired future thinking is driving a new consensus. This continent of 54 countries and multiple urban sites, each with their own design vernaculars and lifestyle cultures is irrepressible and emergent.. 

African surf culture and our story sits within this wider change. Surf is our passion and story. It is a story linked to a movement that is reshaping the global culture it is  part of.

Yes, we’re talking about surf in Africa. A vast physical space colonised by the Crescent and the Cross, a place undone by history. A polyglot continent bordered by two oceans and connected to the world by multiple shared languages and undersea fibre cables streaming Lagosian televangelists and Spotify playlists. A place where a pair of cling-wrapped Air Jordans made in China is a micro-currency. Where thoughts on cultural innovation have moved on from clichés about salvage and rescue. Where mobile phone-based banking was invented and proliferated. Where the remix is the original.

Mami Wata

This is Africa. Where the collected discographies of Franco, Brenda Fassie, Ali Hassan Kuban, Francis Bebey, Fela Kuti and Ali Farka Touré represent the monuments of past achievement, as well as the foundations of an always-updating urban sonic experience. Gqom from Durban. Ndombolo from Kinshasa. The electro collectives of Nairobi.  

Where the liberation aesthetics of Malian studio photographers Seydou Keïta and Malik Sidibé inform the unapologetic look-at-me brilliance of Dakar’s Omar Victor Diop and you-don’t-know-me portraiture of Zanele Muholi from South Africa. Where the experimental postcolonial zeitgeist of writers like Bessie Head, Sony Lab’ou Tansi, Dambudzo Marechera and Taban Lo Liyong set the terms for a new imaginary. Who are you reading?

Africa isn’t a YouTube meme. It is an insistently urban proposition, a place of busy, agitated, contradictory life – that includes the possibility of ocean  time and surf culture . It is a space of always ballooning possibilities, of mobile identities and new urban cultural formations. Africa is home to three megacities – Cairo in Egypt, Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Lagos in Nigeria – with many more coastal urban centres set to exceed 10 million dwellers in the near future. A fact: 40,000 people are moving to Africa’s cities every day. Africa is a growing public transport conundrum.

Mami Wata

How is hustle and enterprise redefining urban citizenship? Is citizenship even relevant in this era of effective digital communities and transnational hashtags? What about basics? Need is propulsive, and Africa is a needy continent compelled to change. Africa, now, today, is a site of real-time experiment. Its happening on the beaches of Dakar and Taghazout, but also in Kisangani, where Congolese dancer Faustin Linyekula built a water-treatment facility, and Bamako, where Malian artist Abdoulaye Konaté’s overseas a conservatory linked to a millennium-old textile craft. 

Africa is a place of creators, innovators, entrepreneurs and surf visionaries. Their stories inform ours. 

Africa is unbowed, insistent, exciting and surfing. 

Africa. The context for our stories, fonts, graphics, colours, ideas, patterns and images.  

Mami Wata
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