African architecture is having a moment in European museums. Joining the crowd is AFRICA: Architecture, Culture, and Identity, an ambitious and contradictory exhibition at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Hummelbæk, Denmark, June 25, 2015–October 25, 2015. Divided into seven themes designed as points of entrée into the field of contemporary sub-Saharan Africa, the sprawling exhibition includes contributions by nearly eighty architects, writers, and artists either born in or working on the continent. With its kaleidoscope of images, Louisiana’s AFRICA provides many answers to the hows and whys of contemporary African architecture, ultimately succeeding in its intention to supplant media-based stereotypes of the continent with alternative narratives. Juxtaposing architecture’s two dominant global modes—that of the architect-designed structure with that of the user-built structure—AFRICA makes it clear that architectural modernity is an act of negotiation with no clear final outcome. Notwithstanding curatorial declarations that the exhibition would neither try to “pinpoint the specifically African” nor rely upon generalizations, too often the wall texts and labels rely on the tired tropes of the tribal and traditional to create fantastical pan-African architectural typologies, undermining genuine explorations of the local.

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