An Ode to Demas

Sep 03, 2015

I have often wondered, what would happen when African ways of knowing meet Western thought.

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Today I don’t have to wonder about that anymore, I know the answer, I now know what happens when the African embraces technology but does not forgo he’s African ways of knowing. A glorious thing is created, in CS it is often called the “CS + X for all X” approach.

Demas Nwoko is an example of an individual who took his African ways of knowing and melded it with Western technological insights. He gave birth to an African Vernacular Architecture. His Dominican Chapel in Ibadan, pictured above is a masterwork of that vernacular.

Something else worth noting, is that Nwoko often worked in partnership with the local climate. He did not try to impose western norms on African soil. Instead he built sustainable buildings before sustainability was in vogue. Here George Henderson states that

“Nwoko, like Goff, takes everyday materials, reinterprets them and turns the ordinary into the extraordinary. The decorative sand castings on the screen walls of the Dominican Institute, Ibadan, provide shading, natural ventilation and scale-giving decoration, whilst having an uncanny resemblance to the baked dough snacks known as ‘pretzels’.”

This chapel in Ibadan was designed by Demas Nwoko. I owe him an acknowledgment in my dissertation, for his work has had a profound impact on my intellectual DNA. His dedication to African Vernacular architecture, showed me a vision of what can be when the African comes in communion with technology. The book by John Godwin and Gillian Hopwood published beautifully by Nigeria’s own Farafina press sits in a place of honor in my living room.

Thank you Demas for having the courage to birth your style. You can learn about him here.