Aqal ✿ Stories from Africa

Garden of Stories

Muhubo Suleiman in her aqal.

The aqal is one of the many structures where people gather in Africa. Visit and enjoy the vibrant stories of what we make in Africa today.

The aqal is a Somali thatched hut that is often adorned by weavings, making it a live-in gallery. You can read how Muhubo Suleiman recreated the aqal of her childhood in a Melbourne high-rise apartment. Our stories from Africa often involve these traditional spaces, like the boma or makan or kraal.

Explore the many beautiful and inspiring objects kept alive in Africa today.

Between the quarry and paradise: Grafting rubbish onto nature - Lauren Downton shares her journey from the dazzling nature of South Africa to the withered landscape of South Australia, from which has emerged hybrid porcelain forms.
Kokrobitey ✿ Ghanaian paradise regained - Renée C. Neblett reflects on the idyllic village life she found in Ghana, how it lost its way with commercialisation, and the institute she founded to help recover its vitality.
The Kalange ✿ Local knowledge created from recycled denim and clay - Katesi Jacqueline Kalange works with the children of Nubuke in Ghana to create a home for the story of Badere, the spider who hoarded knowledge.
Otobong Nkanga ✿ Soap stacks of the wider world - Jessica Hemmings reviews Otobongo Nkanga's exhibition of soap with the help of a novel by Teju Cole.
Scented adornment in North Africa and Southwest Asia - Sigrid van Roode discovers redolent objects of wearable fragrance in the cultures of the Middle East.
Decolonising the manza xylophones of Azande - Adilia On-ying YIP writes about a Congolese xylophone that became a museum artefact in Belgium. She believes it should be returned and revived as a musical instrument.
Bubu Ogisi ✿ Masks that reveal hidden spirits - Bubu Ogisi speaks about her masquerade costumes, which belong to spirits that can heal the disorder in the world.
UYalezo – New Traditions - Andile Dyalvane's ceremonial ceramic works embody traditional knowledge about nature transmitted by ancestors.
Kevin Diallo ✿ Ode to Zouglou  - Claire Grant talks to Kevin Diallo about the vivid imprints of his journey from Cote d’Ivoire in the churchie emerging art prize.
Maker mythologies: Classical origin stories for the crafts - Patrick Webb explores the mythologies of craft in classical Egyptian and Greek civilisations.
Aqal ✿ Stories from Africa - The aqal is one of the many structures where people gather in Africa. Visit and enjoy the vibrant stories of what we make in Africa today.
Assegai: A spear of light across the Indian Ocean - Adam Markowitz reflects on the origins of his pendant light and why he decided to give it a Zulu name.
iQweqwe: Towards the ancestors - The Cape Town ceramicist Madoda Fani takes the road to success and finds his way back home.
Ozioma Onuzulike ✿ Woven in clay - Our October laurel goes to Nigerian ceramicist Ozioma Onuzulike for an epic Nigerian prestige gown woven out of hundreds of small clay beads.
Lockdown has revealed the enduring crafts of Morocco - Our podcast interview with the Moroccan brass smith Hamza El Fasiki reflects on the crafts that survive in Morocco when the tourist no longer come.
Remembering Kala Pani: Presencing memory objects - Arif Satar & Audrey Fernandes-Satar create objects of offerings for the lives displaced during the practice of indentured labour when the Indian Ocean was seen as a "British Lake".
“Things from before”: Baskets in Gorongosa - Frances Potter reflects on the role of craft in Gorongosa, Mozambique, where life is precarious but memories are long.
A diamond in the rough: Developing a discourse on contemporary African jewellery  - Papers are invited for a conference in South Africa that seeks to recognise discourse about contemporary jewellery in Africa.
Hamza ✿ Enter the circle - Kimsuka Iyer introduces Hamza, a Moroccan brass smith, bookbinder and oud musician.
Linda Butcher ✿ Inside the tent in Egypt - An Australian quiltmaker is inspired by Egyptian tentmakers to produce an award-winning coverlet.
One Village One Product: A global platform for local craft - The fifth talk in Reinventing the Wheel takes us to Senegal, where Joseph Ndione will introduce the One Village One Product movement, an international platform for rejuvenating rural communities.
iThongo: Messages from the ancestors - Andile Dyalvane's new work inscribes Xhosa objects into ceramic seating that supports a gathering of his OoJola clan.
Paula do Prado ✿ My abuela’s hands - Paula do Prado shares the story of her family’s epic story from Africa via Uruguay to Australia, as reflected in her intricately threaded creations.
The Afro-Peruvian cajón: Reclaiming a humble percussion crate as one’s own - Aromica Bhattacharya tracks a percussion crate from its invention by African slaves to its eventual acknowledgment as intrinsic to Peruvian cultural heritage.
OVOP Senegal success stories: Jute bag from Espace Beauté Yagora - Joseph Ndione is proud of the craft produced by a Senegal company with the support of the One Village One Product platform.
Gnawa Guembri: Resonance of a lost past - In the fifth instalment of #africamade_n_played, Gary Warner writes how Western ears are deaf to the essence of this West African instrument. 
Balafon: wood-tongue-talk - In the fourth instalment of #africamade_n_played, Gary Warner writes about an enchanting West African instrument that gives voice to trees.
Mbira and kalimba ✿ Anatomy of the “thumb piano” - In the third instalment of #africamade_n_played, Gary Warner reveals the inner life of this captivating instrument from southern Africa.
Ulo ✿ Putting an African face to lockdown - The lockdown offers an opportunity mask up with African prints—umswenko!
Ogene & Oja ✿ Talking instruments of a playful Igbo crew - For the second instalment in #africamade_n_played, Gary Warner is inspired by the flirtatious whistling and clanging of the Igbo crew, Ejyk Nwamba.
Enkarewa: The Maasai gift of gifts - Denis Odinga Okiya and John Kamanga share their knowledge of the magnificent Maasai beaded necklace.
uhadi & umruhbe ✿ a resonant Xhosa tradition - Gary Warner begins a series #africamade_n_played with a Xhosa stringed instrument that resonates through the body and is played today by a new generation of performers.
New Zulu beads to be worn with pride - Mbuso Zondi's commitment to his Zulu culture is reflected in his project to create new beads that use more traditional materials that those imported in the past.
Fulu Muziki ✿ Kinshasa noisicians + eco-culturists - Gary Warner begins his series #AfricaMade_n_played with a Congolese ensemble featuring the exuberant instrumentarium of Pisko Crane.
Quarterly Essay ✿ Moffat Takadiwa: The art of small things - Jenan Taylor returns to her southern African roots, drawn by the mysterious smell of soap, to discover the place where Zimbabwe's iconic sculptor gathers his materials and community.
Muhubo Suleiman ✿ A home within a home - In her Melbourne flat, Muhubo Suleiman has re-created the aqal, thatched hut, her childhood home in Somalia.
Iziqhaza: Designs that open your ears - Hlengiwe Dube recounts the elaborate Zulu tradition of earplugs that inspired her baskets.
Urgent Adornment in South Africa - Beverley Price explains the creative principle of her expedited jewellery and how it is grounded in South African life.
[Re:]Entanglements in Nigeria - Nigerian artists Jennifer Ogochukwu Okpoko and Dr RitaDoris Edumchieke Ubah are inspired by colonial photographs to make new textile work drawing on the heritage of uli body and wall painting.
Stepping out: Africa Fashion Week Middle East - Ansie van der Walt talks to organisers of a new fashion festival in the UAE and profiles leading fashion designers from the region
Life in a boma - Anniina Sandberg shares her experience of living in a Tanzanian Maasai family compound with the goats and an occasional scorpion.
25,000 knots: The hands that make Baba Tree baskets - Awuni Ayine tells us about the fans she makes that were traditionally used for funerals.
Izandla Zethu: Fine jewellery with what’s at hand - Izandla Zethu involves gathering materials at hand in a South African township to craft jewellery that combines honesty and elegance.
Ndomo: Beauty from mud in Mali - Rebecca Hoyes visits Segou on the Niger river to learn the secret of bogolan, mud cloth.
I wear letters from the past - Lara Daryl Landsberg re-creates letters from her Oupa to create a jewellery series that reconnects with her childhood.
The Eastern Cape made visible through jewellery - Joani Groenewald reflects how her jewellery is drawn from the South African landscape in which she is embedded.
My father was an elephant: Clay dreams in Nigeria - Ngozi Omeje shares her journey through the soothing medium of clay and how it helps honour her family and inspire good works.
Isifociya: The revival of Zulu adornment that protects and beautifies - Khanya Mthethwa transforms the traditional Zulu girdle into a fashion item for proud South Africans
Simb, or the rise and fall of the Fake Lion in Senegal - Joseph Ndione laments the demise of the man-lion street performance that once celebrated the power of nature.
Moffat Takadiwa: The art of small things - Jenan Taylor returns to her southern African roots, drawn by the mysterious smell of soap, to discover the place where Zimbabwe's iconic sculptor gathers his materials and community.
Litema, the pride of a Mosotho woman’s home - ‘Matsooana Sekokotoana is inspired by the litema designs on the homes of her country, which reflect daily life in the villages of Lesotho.
Wissa-Sophy: Back to the woven garden - Passent Nossair returns to the refreshing gardens of El Harraneya in Giza, Egypt, where she learns the remarkable story of Wissa Wassef, whose belief in the inner creativity of children helped build a weaving workshop of international renown.
Egypt reclaims niello: A craft for kings and sultans - On the banks of the Nile, Passent Nossair finds the source of a quintessential Egyptian craft.
Embroideries with love from Mauritius - Palmesh Cuttaree has painted scenes that are typical of folklife in his native Mauritius.
With the blessing of Gods and families: A Mauritian Tamil wedding - Veemanda Curpen shares the elaborate rituals and shared joy of her brother’s wedding, in full Tamil tradition with a Mauritian twist.
Creating sanctuary through beading: The South Sudanese Elders group - Caroline Lenette finds herself welcomed with beads into the South Sudanese women's group.
Re-locating traditions: Ethiopian crafts in Moorooka, Brisbane - Melanie Gupta finds a haven of clay and fibre craft in Brisbane's Little Africa.
Andile Dyalvane ✿ uTyityilizi - Our December laurel goes to the South African ceramicist Andile Dyalvane for his powerful vessel titled, uTyityilizi.
4,000-year-old string discovered in Egypt - At Garland, we love stories of string. This rich article from a publication about coastal cultures includes the story of how perfectly preserved papyrus rope was discovered in a man-made cave in the ancient Egyptian harbour of Saww. String-lovers will enjoy this.
What object will we carry through the streets in 2168? - Could you imagine taking a precious museum object out of the cabinet and carrying it through the streets in an annual procession, celebrating our shared cultures?

Go back to the Garden.

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