Nifemi Marcus-Bello and Limbo Accra discuss design and production in Africa
In our ongoing profile series with Ghanaian space design studio Limbo Accra, we meet their rich network of collaborators. Here, Nifemi Marcus-Bello of Nmbello Studio talks about design and manufacturing, and inspiring the younger generations in Africa
The rich network of the Ghanaian space design studio Limbo Accra has grown thanks to global partnerships that the founder Dominique Petit-FrÃ¨re has nurtured with the main creators of urban spaces and architecture enthusiasts. Our profile series explores the studio’s collaborations to discuss critical issues of our time, such as design intent, intergeneration, creativity and change across Africa and its Diaspora. The third installment of our series follows Nifemi Marcus-Bello, a designer, innovator and founder of Nmbello Studio based in Lagos.
Nifemi Marcus-Bello and Limbo Accra
What started out as an industrial design studio has now spread to multiple design disciplines, operating in Lagos and beyond, with Marcus-Bello winning âLife Enhancer of the Yearâ in the 2021 Wallpaper * Design Awards. the studio’s recent collaborations with Limbo Accra – from activation sites at Scott House to their joint design competition, âAfrica – A Designer’s Utopiaâ – positions the two creative practices at the forefront of design of their generation, inspiring people across the African continent and beyond.
Nifemi Marcus-Bello in his studio
After years of working in telecommunications as a designer, Marcus-Bello came up with the idea of ââstarting his own design studio in 2017. He realized that âthere is power in producing products on the continent and to consume them ourselves â. Despite warnings about production limitations in Africa, Marcus-Bello believes there are “a lot of constraints that people avoid, [but] I see a lot of opportunities [in them]’.
Nifemi Marcus-Bello’s studio space
During his research on manufacturing capacities in his country and in the region, Marcus-Bello realized that there was a mass production of indigenous products “woven into the fabric of cities like Lagos, Accra or Abidjan” , which were not considered “products of design” because they were anonymous. .
One such product was the ‘Kwali’, portable confectionery goods carriers that can be found at almost every traffic light in Lagos. Marcus-Bello was intrigued by his production line and researched further, motivated by the question, “How can we as designers benefit and collaborate within these existing networks?”
Confectionery transporter ‘Kwali’
Questions like these inspired the creation of the “LM Stool”. Marcus-Bello acknowledged the abundance of generators in households in Lagos. So he contacted the generator box factories to understand how he could design around their production line. For the designer, this is what contemporary African design looks like: âstrongly contextual to the environment in which the designer or manufacturer finds himselfâ.
‘LM Stool’ by Nmbello Studio
Petit-FrÃ¨re and Marcus-Bello came together for the first time in an exhibition at Scott House, a modernist architectural space in Accra, which Petit-FÃ¨re wanted to activate by exploring the levels of urbanization and manufacturing taking root in the built environment. âPartnering with Nmbello Studio on programming around what it takes to create products here has led us to the conclusion that you don’t have to look anywhere, everything is here,â says Petit-FrÃ¨re.
One of the initiatives emerging from this collaboration is their design competition, âAfrica – A Designer’s Utopiaâ, calling on architecture and design students from Accra and Lagos to participate, offering support for the production of the concept or design. winning design. The competition is now live.
Design competition, poster ‘Africa – A Designer’s Utopia’. Poster design by 2dots Space Agency
Through the competition, Limbo Accra and Nmbello Studio hope to educate students on contextual approaches to design “with an emphasis on production, but also on how they will engage with the artisans with whom they will collaborate.” The competition is also a way to shape this generation and the next generation of designers by understanding the transformative power of design in their cityscapes.
The two studios also share dreams of changing cities. Petit-FrÃ¨re wants “more planning around leisure spaces”, a wish already fulfilled thanks to the ongoing development of the Freedom Skate Park in Accra, Ghana. Marcus-Bello dreams of the introduction of a design policy in Africa, to encourage greater consideration in the design of infrastructure, technologies within urban spaces “led by Africans, with Africans in mind” .
Marcus-Bello has often been told that “contemporary design does not exist in Africa”, an assertion he is quick to reprimand. âEven the locally made wheelbarrows are ergonomically designed,â he says, also pointing to the âmeruwaâ mobile containers, which carry water from house to house in the suburbs of Lagos. These products create employment opportunities for people capable of transporting water, as well as for designers who manufacture these products from open sources. âThere is currently a huge design revolution in Africa,â Marcus-Bello points out, and his studio’s work is a testament to the power of paying attention to indigenous production capacities to shape the future of sustainable design. Â§
Mobile container ‘Meruwa’