Mike Drachkovitch, manager of marketing and external relations at ONE, shares his interview with one of the creators of a magazine and brand that is challenging the accepted understanding of Africa. Photos: AITF.
Part conceptual magazine, part clothing company, AFRICA IS THE FUTURE, or AITF, is more of an ever-evolving creative project in time travel than anything else.
And that’s exactly what its co-founder and creative director, Nicolas Premiere, had in mind. Nicolas was born in France to a French mother and a Congolese father. He and his business partner Patrick Ayamam launched AITF with an important vision in mind: to change the way you think and talk about Africa.
We think he’s done just that.
Tell me about how you came to found AITF and the team behind it?
The first t-shirt with the slogan ‘AFRICA IS THE FUTURE’ was printed in 2002. At this time, I was also exhibiting a series of painted portraits featuring Congolese people I had met a year earlier in Brazzaville. Almost all the models looked at the viewer straight in the eye. It was important for me to show proud Africans who are aware of themselves. Alongside these series of paintings, I worked on different slogans that were inspired by the civil rights movement with updated content. Among all of these slogans, there was AFRICA IS THE FUTURE.
A cultural center organizing one of my exhibitions offered to print my t-shirts for the opening. I chose to print [AFRICA IS THE FUTURE] on 30 t-shirts. But it was two years later when AITF was born. There was another exhibition, another opening, where at least ten friends came with the famous t-shirt which led to the audience talking about the slogan, its meaning and Africa.
My friend Patrick and I were pretty surprised by all the discussions that the t-shirts generated.There were new angles, perspectives and ways to talk about Africa. We wanted this to happen again more widely and more often, so we reprinted more t-shirts! In recent years we’ve generated discussion in ways other than the t-shirts-AITF Magazine is the most recent example of this.
Let’s talk about your homepage. I’m intrigued by the teaser: everything you want to know about AITF but never dared to ask. Then, clicking through, it says: now you know. What was your reasoning behind this?
When we printed the first t-shirts with the slogan AFRICA IS THE FUTURE, we did not want people to be able to clearly identify who was behind this and what for. We did this because we wanted people to use their critical mind to elaborate their own meaning for the slogan.We did not want to interfere with this process. Our only goal was to bring Africa, from an unusual and stimulating perspective, as a main subject of everyday discussions.
Now you know means there is no hidden truth or magical secret behind AITF-it’s a creative work that is crucial but surely not sufficient-we are not the solution. We do not pretend to change the world or Africa.
You also mention on your homepage how AITF questions how the world is told to us and renews the way Africa is represented. In your view, how is that world told to us and what’s the image of Africa you’re renewing?
Until the lions have their own historians, history will always glorify the hunter. My goal is not to compare Africa to lions but to highlight the fact that there is a predominant point of view in media and cultural industry. It has nothing to do with objectivity-it’s global power relations reflected in images.
AITF Magazine, with its fictional content, requires the reader to ask himself questions because everything that normally seems self-evident is reversed. Particularly the traditional image of Africa in the media: poor, sick, plagued by war. By giving Africa the leading role, AITF Magazine places the continent in a position that is nearly the same as the US today.
Your conceptual magazine is published 20 years from now in 2033. Why did you pick 2033?
The main reason the magazine is dated in the year 2033 is to signify that it is not the real world. AITF’s world has its own temporality, its own logic…It’s not a perfect reflection of the real world. Our goal is not to predict the future but if possible, to create tools for thinking about the world differently by swapping/changing preconceived ideas.
What about the Addis Abeba Panthers?
The Adis Abeba Panthers are the greatest soccer team of the world in 2033. For your information, ever since they recruited Etuna Ndakolo, they have won victory after victory. Moreover, Ndakolo has dethroned the old Messi in many records!
Your brand utilises some timeless images and design work. Tell us your creative vision behind the look and feel of AITF.
It’s about the aesthetic of the fifties which corresponds to the post-war economic growth of the US and the worldwide promotion of the American way of life. This time period is a perfect playground because its representational codes are strongly rooted in the collective unconscious and the impact is all the more great when diverted.
How about U.R. Doctors for America – an American child vaccinated in our backyard of Virginia?
Worldwide petroleum resources have been exhausted but the African Energy Group discovered new shale gas fields in America which is good news for Africa. We can not say the same for America because the continent stirs lust. Like deja vu, various civil wars break out in places where a deposit is discovered. Utilities, especially health care and education, are most affected by these troubles.Endemic diseases like meningitis resurface. Touched by the plight of kids and civilians, an association of African volunteer doctors travels to America to rescue them.
What’s your creative process like?
Like every creative project, it’s complex. I can’t tell you exactly, because I do not have a magical formula. I work all the time. I use many notebooks. I read, I listen, I look, I walk, I inhale, I exhale. I try to stay connected with the flow because everything comes from it.
One of the statistics I find most exciting about Africa is that 65 percent of Africans are under the age of 35. I couldn’t help but think that AITF is trying to connect with this up-and-coming, change-making generation. Why?
We connect to the coming generation of the world because they are, by definition, the future.The way we see the world determines what we do in it. This is too important to let only media and cultural industry open the eyes of the youth!
Finally, if you could share a message with ONE members young and old, what would it be?
Think for yourself.
Big thanks to Nicolas for sharing his ideas with us. Check out the website and tell us what you think in the comments below.