It goes without saying that our collective past affects and influences our work. However, we are intrigued by the notion that our present efforts can shape the trajectories of our unborn children's lives. The following is an ongoing series of stories that scrutinize aspects of present-day African society, and attempt to telegraph their ripple effects in the far-flung future.
The "Africa 2081A.D." series, and other works, have been displayed as part of the Vitra Design Museum's "Making Africa" exhibit. The exhibit was also displayed at the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain and at the Centre do Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona.
Illustrations - Lekan Jeyifo x Words - Walé Oyéjidé
"In the beginning, the drones were used to hunt poachers. Imported technology intended to stop the export and extinction of important wild-life. Motorcycle-sized mosquitoes buzzing mechanically between the tree-tops with decimal-point accuracy and a thirst for blood. Their efficiency would have been admirable had it not been accomplished with such calculated zeal. The hungry hum of in-flight havoc blending with our hymns became a common harmony. Roaming door to door to bear uninvited witness, these unmanned guests seemed increasingly inhumane as their algorithm-driven eyes looked into the faces of men; unable to recognize the souls emanating behind our eye-lids.
What occurred next should have been no surprise to us. Still, when their hovering shadows careened through our village streets like sentient storm clouds seeking an escape from the sun; when pillars of smoke spontaneously erupted from the ground where children had stood moments before; and when we lifted our spears to take aim at skies that no longer sheltered us; it was then we realized we'd been sitting idly as unseen hands steered us toward our end.
No one remembers which of us was the first to climb atop the cooling metal carcass of a downed flyer, but the story of a lone Masai stepping into a screaming death's flight-plan would travel like an air borne outbreak. An epidemic pouring through Africa's porous borders; indiscriminately infecting all it touched with the hope of freedom. Soon, silhouettes of dark skinned sons in brightly hued robes could be seen rising with weapons and shields aloft in the Nairobi sun.
The end was near, but it would not be ours."
Johannesburg 2081 A.D.
"Men like us once made our living on our knees. Crawling through the bowels of illegal gold mines that hid the threat of a death in the dark abyss behind every corner. In moments when groups of rival migrant miners ambushed us for our spoils, it seemed like we were at odds with the entire world above us. For weeks on end, we lived by candle-light. Scraping at the earth with the fear that we might never again see the skies or loved-ones that had forgotten us. We were the sort of fathers that became shadows. Leaving behind ghost memories of tucking our sons into bed. Phantoms of evening embraces with wives whose faces we now struggled to remember in the dark.
Things changed slowly at first. More of us began to emerge from the blackness below with increasingly large hauls of gold. And then we found it. Gleaming, immeasurable and all ours for the taking. We returned to Johannesburg as different men. The kind of men whose hands had become calloused from clutching at ancient treasures, and were now strong enough to mold the future."
Idumota Market, Lagos 2081A.D.
"In a city so crowded that it is impossible for one to find himself without a mirror and some purposeful soul-searching, there is no space to fall; life is standing room only. Like a modern day Atlantis, New Lagos became an oasis in a desert of global despondence. It was built on the backs of Nigeria's prayers and unforgettable regrets. On top of the bomb-blast rubble, and in the wake of the political pariahs' exile, its people dared to build something beautiful...and they dared to build it so high, the whole world would see it and stare."
Makoko, Lagos 2081A.D.
"Once, the fishermen of Makoko village would feed their families with what their hands were able to pull from the water at dawn. They built homes on top of the water; an African Venice created from sheer resolve and necessity. Later, it would become a place that few would seek to visit alone, if at all. The outside world turned a blind eye, as Makoko slowly became engulfed by those who only met in the shadows. It was within one of these dark recesses that a tailor desperately hoping to keep his business open took in an unlikely apprentice. A young boy with sticky fingers and a keen eye for fine fabrics. A young boy who would sew at night, under the blinding searchlights of hovering drones, as his pricked fingers bled into the wax cotton. A young boy who would later become the man that they all whispered about."
Victoria Island, Lagos 2081A.D.
"On the day of the Great Crude Explosion, the ground parted, erupting a rich blackness that crept over the landscape. House by house, like some biblical house-guest, it knocked on the front door of every soul in Lagos and announced itself. Barefoot children whose parents hadn't been able to afford shoes suddenly found themselves ankle deep in more wealth than any could have possibly conceived. The towers sprang from the ground next; a collage of architecture which obscured the scorching sun. Then came the flying machines; beautiful blemishes which blurred against the blue skies. Far away, in foreign boardrooms, fattened oil executives whispered amongst themselves as their stock prices plummeted and their plates became bare. This was a land of a hundred dialects, but there would be no Babel. The people spoke in one voice, and they spoke of freedom. This was it. New Lagos was born."
Ikoyi, Lagos 2081 A.D.
"Later, few remembered what his real name was; or what he actually looked like. Over pints of Goulder, men swore that he was a distant relative. Amidst too-loud whispers, market women blushed and told conflicting tales of their secret moments with him. All of them would agree on this much: In the moments before the tipping point, in the days that seemed darkest from the pall of an entire world's turned shoulder, he was there.
There are few accurate accounts of his sacrifice. Perhaps he flashed a rogue's grin before disappearing into the flames; perhaps he fretted over the blood-stains that spontaneously erupted on the colorful fabric of his jacket; or perhaps he paid the simple but unspeakable price for asking that his people stand up for themselves. However he came to his end, all readily conceded that it was his end that ushered Lagos, and ultimately Nigeria, to its new beginning.
When they spoke of hope, the future, or merely spoke of a child with too much ambition for his size, they would speak fondly of him: Ikiré Jones."
Illustrations - Lekan Jeyifo x Words - Walé Oyéjidé