Author: Lorelle Bell
It appears to be the role of artists in society to imagine and communicate ideals to which the rest of us aspire, regardless of how much reality might conspire against these ideals.
If this is true, then South African architect Mokena Makeka is an artist first. For, against the backdrop of our current reality in which design is misunderstood, its transformative potential unrecognised, and its need for public embrace not even on the national agenda, Mokena is nevertheless pursuing a vision for a design museum for Cape Town – with all the investment this entails in terms of belief, energy and enormous amounts of funding.
MoDILA, standing for Museum of Design, Innovation, Leadership and Art, is his bold and ambitious conception of a space and the programmes and developments which will emanate from there.
Mokena believes that MoDILA can catapult the South African public on a journey towards an appreciation of the role that design, arts and culture can play in propelling the country, and ultimately Africa, into a leadership role in the knowledge economy. His vision is of an iconic facility located in what he calls a “high impact innovation district” where academia, creativity, innovation and business will intersect to catalyse the region’s creative industries into leading development.
And he has invested heavily in this vision: conceptualising location, design and programmes; developing public support; and exploring partnerships. Significantly, his commitment to this vision is paying dividends in growing support from the public, private, academic and design sectors. MoDILA will formally launch on 25 July 2011 and already has a schedule of programmes, of engagement around design and innovation, in place and ready to roll out.
“Cape Town – in fact Africa -,” says Mokena, “lacks a design and innovation asset of global significance and impact.” MoDILA is intended to bridge this gap “as an iconic and unifying platform where science and art meet, innovation and design are one, and societal leadership is nurtured.”
While South Africa, may be slow to acknowledge, appreciate and invest in local designers and their social contributions, outside our borders their visions are celebrated. Already MoDILA in its concept phase has attracted attention. This week it was selected to go to the second round of the International Design Competition: Design for the Real World Redux!, a project of The Victor J. Papanek Foundation at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, the Austrian Cultural Forum New York, and the Museum of Arts and Design.
Mokena Makeka, founder and principal driver behind MoDILA, is the Creative and Managing Director of the award winning architectural and urban design practice Makeka Design Lab. Mokena is a strong advocate of social transformation through the power of design and is known for his belief that “good architecture and design is a basic human right” He is an ardent patron of the Arts and a strong contributor to Cape Town’s bid to become the World Design Capital in 2014.
The views expressed in this article are entirely the views of the author or authors and are not necessarily those of DWA or its associates.