• Africa—A Designer's Utopia
    Nifemi Marcus-Bello

Nifemi Marcus-Bello, “Waf Kiosk (temporary installation),” 2022. Photograph. Courtesy nmbello Studio, Lagos, Nigeria. Photo: Jide Ayeni

From a contemporary viewpoint, a good number of West African cities have a vast array of Indigenous products that create socioeconomic solutions. These products are a necessity towards the daily function of the city and, in most cases, are designed and crafted around readily available materials and craftsmanship—a kit of parts or manufacturing. These products have also cemented themselves into the landscape of cities and, in some cases, countries. This project investigates the ecosystem around these products to understand the impact urban planning has on how communities come together to design, create, build, and distribute products through their network. The research focuses on demonstrating how ingenuity and indeginous design thinking is used to create and cater to stakeholders across a unique supply chain, highlighting how a design revolution continues to happen in Africa, without the “design” label attached to it.

Nifemi Marcus-Bello is an industrial designer known for his community-led, ethnographic-conscious design approach. His strengths lie in the exploitation of materials to pursue new forms and typologies, allowing him to create truly unique products, forms and experiences. In 2017, he founded nmbello Studio, focusing on furniture, product and installation design. In 2021, the studio was awarded the “Life Enhancer of the Year” award by Wallpaper* magazine for its collaboration with artisans across Lagos to create a medical device. The studio has showcased its products in London, Venice and Milan; in April 2022, it will be exhibiting at the 12th International Design Biennale Saint-Étienne in Paris, France. Marcus-Bello graduated from the University of Leeds with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in product design and received the “Potential for Social Change” award from the University of Leeds’ School of Mechanical Engineering. Marcus-Bello is the lead researcher for Africa—A Design Utopia.