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The Brain of Africa more of an artist than an architect

A world-famous London-based architect, with African roots, is bringing his talent home.

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David Adjaye, the renowned architect born in Tanzania to Ghanaian parents, has been busy. He is leading the design team behind the Smithsonian’s $500-million National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. He is also the frontrunner to design Barack Obama’s presidential library in Chicago. These two buildings will be the most high-profile pieces of more than a decade of work.

Although Adjaye’s work, which focuses heavily on historical cultures, is spread all over the world, it can now be appreciated, by many. He recently released his latest book, David Adjaye: Form, Heft, Material, which was published to complement his exhibition at the Haus der Kunst museum in Munich. In September, it was extended to Chicago.

“It is the most comprehensive survey of my work to date. The concept of the book was to offer an insight into current projects within the context of the trajectory of my work over the past 15 years, and framed within a broad social, cultural and historical discourse,” says Adjaye.

The discourse to which Adjaye refers has informed his multiculturalist work across every continent, and has led to projects that have placed Adjaye as one of the most distinguished architects in the world.

Adjaye’s work has shifted to public architecture.

“I think that design can provide a critical inquiry into social responsibility and civic consciousness.”

Despite this shift, Adjaye maintains a certain audacity to his work; the kind of trait that can only make a building indelible to the most discerning eye. His work surpasses the mediocrity of simply fulfilling the mere function of shelter. Adjaye is more of an artist than an architect. His work is often as much of a visual sculpture as a constructional design.

“I have always sought to cross creative platforms, collaborating with artists and designers from different disciplines and focusing on the creative discourse surrounding the act of making things. It is the dialogue – the cultural intersection – which excites me.”

Adjaye has also been embraced by the world of politics. He was commissioned by Obama to lead the design of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Such a responsibility has not been taken lightly. Adjaye describes it as “a career defining project.” The monument, in Washington D.C.’s National Mall, has been built to commemorate the momentous milestones in African American history.

“It is an incredibly exciting project and it has been a real honor to be involved in the creation of this monumental building,” he says.

Like most of the museums the architect has designed, the National Museum will be as iconic as the exhibitions inside it. It is  to open to the public in early 2016. The timing of the building’s inaugural opening could not be more perfect; Obama’s term is coming to a close, and racial antipathy continues to plague the country.

“My hope is that the museum will transcend the uneasy fact of racial tension through an open exploration of history, culture and society – thereby addressing profound aspects of the human condition and the positive value inherent in creating a forum for multiple interpretations of America’s history and demography, however uncomfortable those may be.”

Adjaye has a different hope for Africa – a continent often riddled with political instability that threatens to derail progress made in the private and public sector.

“Politics can hinder development. The four-year electoral window is often at odds with urban and infrastructure projects which can require a decade of political commitment. Nevertheless, [I] am excited about all of my work in Africa.”

A few of the projects that Adjaye has been working on across the continent include; a luxury concept store in Lagos called Alara, a school campus and residential project in Accra, building the headquarters of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in Dakar, residential projects in Johannesburg, and a hospital in Rwanda.

Over the last few years, Adjaye has collaborated with Propertuity to develop one of the Johannesburg CBD’s many timeworn buildings in the Maboneng Precinct – Hallmark House. The area is undergoing urban changes, with many buildings being redeveloped and perhaps gentrified.

“The project is a dramatic transformation of a former commercial building into apartments and cultural facilities in Johannesburg’s CBD. Its proximity to the already vibrant Maboneng district will mean that it will extend this extraordinary new city quarter.”

The inspiration behind Hallmark House’s transformation has been driven by the same principles Adjaye places on all of his work. His designs are often a reflection of social, historical and environmental context. In the case of his work in Maboneng, the design of the residential building was inspired by what Adjaye lauds as “an icon of the Joburg city skyline”. The 66-meter-high structure, initially designed in the 1970s by Greg Cohen, was built to house a burgeoning diamond polishing company.

Adjaye is a firm believer that the story of a city is written in its buildings. Johannesburg reflects the complex challenges of its past.

“Johannesburg, sadly, is one of the few cities in the world that has a specific spatial architecture that is born from division,” he says.

Such a landscape does not wean Adjaye away from the potential possibilities awaiting this historically rich part of Johannesburg, but rather encourages an admiration of the city.

“Johannesburg is the most cosmopolitan city I have visited in Africa. You see in its buildings a story of a tragic past but also a city that is being very intentional about confronting its history and seeking ways to move forward.”

Adjaye dismisses the idea that his work has a clear and definitive aesthetic.

“I am part of a generation of architects which has moved away from the idea of a signature.”

He does, however, pull much of his inspiration from the continent.

“I draw from Africa, but I also draw from many other things. That’s what architects do – we are planetary creatures.”

Adjaye adds that all of his projects have been memorable.

“Each one is part of a curve, a critical piece of a narrative that is still unfolding.”

This is a story that will bring many more milestones for the successful architect on a mission in Africa.

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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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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