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The Quest For A True African Skyline

David Adjaye is one of the world’s leading architects, having designed landmarks around the world and been honored by the Queen. He has left Africa for London, but Africa has not left him.

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David Adjaye believes that African skylines are set for an explosion of growth as the continent’s resurgent economies look for new expressions of their increasing potency and self-confidence.

Speaking at his studio in North London, the architect says that the continent needs to define its own vision for urbanization and ensure that its architectural revolution reflects Africa’s cultural, geographical and climatic contexts.

Born in Tanzania to Ghanaian parents, Adjaye traveled extensively in his youth, following his father’s diplomatic career through Africa and the Middle East. It was that exposure that was to later inform his work when, after studying fine art, he found architecture and became fascinated by the relationship between buildings and their environment.

Nobel Peace Center, Oslo. The Canopy is a temporary installation by David Adjaye that serves as a gateway between Oslo City Hall, where the Peace Prize Ceremony takes place, and the Nobel Peace Center.

“I realized that by having been brought up in very different contexts—cultural, religious and social contexts—I had somehow developed an appetite for learning more about how the built environment worked with that, and how it reflected that architecture in its human sense.”

Today, Adjaye is one of the world’s leading architects—in 2007 he received the Order of the British Empire for his services to architecture. His portfolio includes the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC, which is scheduled for completion in 2015.

For a 2010 exhibition at the Design Museum in London, Adjaye traveled to cities across Africa, photographing the buildings which, although in varying states of development or decay, show startling commonality.

Today Adjaye runs through his own potted history of African architecture: Colonial builders erased much of the pre-existing urban culture in Africa, replacing it with tropical versions of European architecture. Upon independence, new leaders embraced a vision of the future that was still largely European.

“I think the early leaders on the continent felt that modernity was the way to embrace or celebrate a sort of new world of empowerment for their nations. So you find a lot of modernist experiments, but modernist experiments that could not avoid the specificity of the geography and the climate. So you have what I call a kind of tropical modernism,” he says.

When the money and ambition began to wear thin, this modernism was replaced by economic pragmatism, driven by international donors who made their architectural choices based on their own financial imperative, and using their own approved contractors and designers.

National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC.

“So you have very odd late ’70s early ’80s buildings that sort of appear, that have nothing to do with the context; they’re just blips,” Adjaye says.

With debt relief and the mineral-driven boom of the late 1990s, which gathered pace in the early years of the new century, African leaders began a new drive for modernity. With this financial independence and growing economic self-confidence has come a stronger sense of cultural identity across the continent, which is manifested in the creative arts.

“I think you see it in literature, fine arts, performing arts and architecture, they’re all in line. They all lead the image of what nations want to project of themselves.

“This image of most of the countries on the continent getting rid of their debt and suddenly discovering vast minerals and negotiating this, means that there is an opportunity to really explore the idea of modernity for these nations. And architecture comes to the forefront of that, because architecture is the image of the city and the future. Architecture is the image of the city as it sees itself. The story of the city is written in books, but it’s also written in buildings.”

The notion of buildings-as-ambassadors has gained currency in the past decade with the successful reinvention of the Emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and the state of Qatar.

“It totally worked,” Adjaye says. “It gave the Emirates a skyline. For my father’s generation, the Emirates was a horrible desert and a place you never went to.”

Where the Emirates initially failed, he says, was specifying what its own version of modernity was. It is a trap he is keen for Africa to avoid. Buildings need to exist in their context, rather than just mimic the current, internationally dictated interpretation of Western modernity.

“I think if there is much more criticality about the way in which buildings are built to their climate, you get a much more unique skyline,” he says. “That doesn’t require more money, it just requires more desire on the part of the patrons to insist on a response that makes things specific, rather than insisting on an approach which is just novel.”

Africa’s modernity, Adjaye says, should be dictated by the same geographic features that defined its early cultures. This means ignoring the artificially imposed national boundaries and shaping regional identities from the unifying climates and cultures across the continent, but also avoiding the “colonial trap” of what he calls “Disney-fication” of culture.

For inspiration, Adjaye looks to New York.

“I love the Rockefeller Center. It’s not a cheap building, but it’s an efficient building. It’s a building that strove to understand the time that it was in, which was the ’30s… It talked about density in the city, it talked about networks, it talked about interconnectivity. It talked about living in the heart of the city. It gave a model which was not iconic in terms of imagery but iconic in terms of place, and it’s still a fundamental part of New York.”

That specificity of place and time has created a building that is more than functional—an artifact that helps to define the city it is in.

“There’s something compelling about coming over that bridge from Brooklyn or Newark, New Jersey, and seeing that skyline. It’s like… it’s so powerful. It’s original. That’s the vision we need in Africa. What is the model of living in Africa that nowhere else in the world you can have? The person who cracks that, cracks the game. Not the person who imports the model that we’ve seen before.

New York City, Rockefeller Center, GE Building, viewed from 5th Avenue.

“You’ve got to make a model that makes people say ‘I want to go to that city in Africa because it’s just so great. The life there is something I can’t have in London. It’s contemporary, I can have my life there, but it’s completely unique.’ That’s a hell of a thing.”

Entrepreneurs

From The Arab World To Africa

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Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi; image supplied

In this exclusive interview with FORBES AFRICA, successful Dubai-based Emirati businesswoman, author and artist, Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi, shares some interesting insights on fashion, the future, and feminism in a shared world.

Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi wears many hats, as an artist, architect, author, entrepreneur and philanthropist based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). She currently serves as the CEO of Paris London New York Events & Publishing (PLNY), that includes a magazine and a fashion house.

She runs Velvet Magazine, a luxury lifestyle publication in the Gulf founded in 2010 that showcases the diversity of the region home to several nationalities from around the world.

In this recent FORBES AFRICA interview, Hend, as she would want us to call her, speaks about the future of publishing, investing in intelligent content, and learning to be a part of the disruption around you.

As an entrepreneur too and the designer behind House of Hend, a luxury ready-to-wear line that showcases exquisite abayas, evening gowns and contemporary wear, her designs have been showcased in fashion shows across the world.

The Middle East is known for retail, but not typically, as a fashion hub in the same league as Paris, New York or Milan. Yet, she has changed the narrative of fashion in the region. “I have approached the world of fashion with what the customer wants,” says Hend. In this interview, she also extols African fashion talent and dwells on her own sartorial plans for the African continent.

In September, in Downtown Dubai, she is scheduled to open The Flower Café. Also an artist using creative expression meaningfully, she says it’s important to be “a role model of realism”.

She is also the author of The Black Book of Arabia, described as a collection of true stories from the Arab community offering a real glimpse into the lives of men and women across the Gulf Cooperation Council region.

In this interview, she also expounds on her home, Sharjah, one of the seven emirates in the UAE and the region’s educational hub. “A number of successful entrepreneurs have started in this culturally-rich emirate that’s home to 30 museums,” she concludes. 

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Kim Kardashian West Is Worth $900 Million After Agreeing To Sell A Stake In Her Cosmetics Firm To Coty

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In what will be the second major Kardashian cashout in a year, Kim Kardashian West is selling a 20% stake in her cosmetics company KKW Beauty to beauty giant Coty COTY for $200 million. The deal—announced today—values KKW Beauty at $1 billion, making Kardashian West worth about $900 million, according to Forbes’estimates.

The acquisition, which is set to close in early 2021, will leave Kardashian West the majority owner of KKW Beauty, with an estimated 72% stake in the company, which is known for its color cosmetics like contouring creams and highlighters. Forbes estimates that her mother, Kris Jenner, owns 8% of the business. (Neither Kardashian West nor Kris Jenner have responded to a request for comment about their stakes.) According to Coty, she’ll remain responsible for creative efforts while Coty will focus on expanding product development outside the realm of color cosmetics.

Earlier this year, Kardashian West’s half-sister, Kylie Jenner, also inked a big deal with Coty, when she sold it 51% of her Kylie Cosmetics at a valuation of $1.2 billion. The deal left Jenner with a net worth of just under $900 million. Both Kylie Cosmetics and KKW Beauty are among a number of brands, including Anastasia Beverly Hills, Huda Beauty and Glossier, that have received sky-high valuations thanks to their social-media-friendly marketing. 

“Kim is a true modern-day global icon,” said Coty chairman and CEO Peter Harf in a statement. “This influence, combined with Coty’s leadership and deep expertise in prestige beauty will allow us to achieve the full potential of her brands.”

The deal comes just days after Seed Beauty, which develops, manufactures and ships both KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, won a temporary injunction against KKW Beauty, hoping to prevent it from sharing trade secrets with Coty, which also owns brands like CoverGirl, Sally Hansen and Rimmel. On June 19, Seed filed a lawsuit against KKW Beauty seeking protection of its trade secrets ahead of an expected deal between Coty and KKW Beauty. The temporary order, granted on June 26, lasts until August 21 and forbids KKW Beauty from disclosing details related to the Seed-KKW relationship, including “the terms of those agreements, information about license use, marketing obligations, product launch and distribution, revenue sharing, intellectual property ownership, specifications, ingredients, formulas, plans and other information about Seed products.”

Coty has struggled in recent years, with Wall Street insisting it routinely overpays for acquisitions and has failed to keep up with contemporary beauty trends. The coronavirus pandemic has also hit the 116-year-old company hard. Since the beginning of the year, Coty’s stock price has fallen nearly 60%. The company, which had $8.6 billion in revenues in the year through June 2019, now sports a $3.3 billion market capitalization. By striking deals with companies like KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, Coty is hoping to refresh its image and appeal to younger consumers.

Kardashian West founded KKW Beauty in 2017, after successfully collaborating with Kylie Cosmetics on a set of lip kits. Like her half-sister, Kardashian West first launched online only, but later moved into Ulta stores in October 2019, helping her generate estimated revenues of $100 million last year. KKW Beauty is one of several business ventures for Kardashian West: She continues to appear on her family’s reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, sells her own line of shapewear called Skims and promotes her mobile game, Kim Kardashian Hollywood. Her husband, Kanye West, recently announced a deal to sell a line of his Yeezy apparel in Gap stores.

“This is fun for me. Now I’m coming up with Kimojis and the app and all these other ideas,” Kardashian West told Forbesof her various business ventures in 2016. “I don’t see myself stopping.”

Madeline Berg, Forbes Staff, Hollywood & Entertainment

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Entrepreneurs

Covid-19: Restaurants, Beauty Salons, Cinemas Among Businesses That Will Operate Again In South Africa As Ramaphosa Announces Eased Lockdown Restrictions

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South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation announcing that the government will further ease the country’s lockdown restrictions.

Restaurants, beauty salons, cinemas are among the businesses that will be allowed to operate again in South Africa.

The country is still on lockdown ‘Level 3’ of the government’s “risk adjusted strategy”.

President Ramaphosa also spoke on the gender based violence in the country.

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that I stand before the women and the girls of South Africa this evening to talk about another pandemic that is raging in our country. The killing of women and children by the men of our country. As a man, as a husband, and as a father to daughters, I am appalled at what is no less than a war that is being waged against the women and the children of our country,” says Ramaphosa.

Watch below:

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