In an interesting exploration of the cultural intersection between the UAE and Nigeria, designer Nifemi Marcus-Bello of Nmbello Studio introduces his Waf kiosk at the Sharjah Architecture Triennal 2023. Presented under the theme “The Beauty of Impermanence: An Architecture of Adaptability,” this event challenges the conventions of contemporary design, urging exhibitors to innovate with local materials and skills deeply rooted in the land.
Rethinking limitations, the Triennal spotlights architecture developed in harmony with the environment, showcasing traditional techniques thriving and adapting in the Global South. Nmbello Studio’s contribution involves the reconstruction of a bamboo kiosk originally designed for the Lagos skate brand, Waf – also known as Wafflesncream.
The installation aligns with Marcus-Bello’s long-term research project, “Africa – A Designer’s Utopia (AADU),” focused on archiving indigenous contemporary design solutions in West African cities. Drawing inspiration from Sharjah’s history of weaving and parallels between West African bamboo techniques and Middle Eastern palm weaving, the pavilion becomes a symbolic link between culturally distinct regions, constructing contemporary design languages rooted in time-honored knowledge.
Describing the project in a short documentary – “Context in Design, Design in Context”, Nmbello Studio emphasizes the contextual design approach within AADU, exploring new design languages inherently tied to behavior, spaces, people, materials, and history. The initiative takes the existing Waf kiosk typology and replicates it within the Sharjah context, fostering a dialogue between Lagos and Sharjah.
This exercise serves as a profound exploration into Sharjah’s rich history of gargour weaving, traditionally used for making fishing baskets. As part of the Sharjah Architecture Triennale 2023, the pavilion undergoes monthly rearrangements, unveiling modularity in both form and experience, showcasing the adaptability inherent in the fusion of two distinct design traditions.