The Market for African Design

Can Pan-African contemporary design validate itself and create a thriving market? It’s an important question, since it means moving away from a Western-centric aesthetic. That makes even determining value for these objects difficult. Since value is typically determined by art dealers, critics, and media. And Pan-African design is currently relegated to the outskirts of the mainstream economies through philanthropic social entrepreneurship on one end and museum acquisitions on the other. What do you think? What solutions might there be?

Tiana Evans
February 28, 2011 at 3:13pm
Lowery Stokes Sims, Curator, Museum of Arts and Design
March 15, 2011 at 12:52pm

This comments makes me think of the details of redeeming "Valued Added Taxes" with receipts from your purchases abroad. It occupied me as I was leaving South Africa recently with the MAD group. It quickly became evident that value was almost diminished if the vendor either forgot to provide the correct documentation or didn't participate in the redemption program. The question then was what determined the value of the objects I purchase for me? I think that value comes with consensus particularly in the contemporary market for creative products be they classified as "art," "craft" or "design." One can realize the pitfalls of how African design exists in the realm of philanthropic social entrepreneurship, but then it is naive to think that the value exists in the way that design and craft function to provide economic sustainability--no matter the level--to individuals and communities that otherwise have limited access to other vehicles to that sustainability. Does the promotion and promulgation of design and craft in a larger market have a value in encouraging the preservation or resumption of skills that would otherwise be lost or have been lost in the social upheavels of say apartheid-era South Africa? or in the industralization of societies in other parts of the Pan-African world? Is value simply monetary or can it be social and political? That is perhaps a naive question but the persistence of making can influence the value...One only has to think of the increase in market share for Ardmore Ceramics, for example.