Serge Mouangue Cameroon X France
Untraceable on Twitter or Facebook despite a global career in design, art direction and luxury textile design, Serge Mouangue is most likely to be found at the confluence of West African and Japanese cultures – behind the seams or scenes of a production of his multifaceted design firm, WAFRICA.
Born Cameroonian, raised and educated in France, employed in Australia and pivoted in Japan, the idea of a singular identity is ill-fitting on Mouangue. And he knows it. He describes his WAFRICA creations as the encapsulation of both West African and Japanese ancient aesthetics of sophistication, mutual respect for animism and respect for the elder into what he calls a Third Aesthetic.
“It does not belong only to (Cameroon) or to Japan, but carves out its own new territory, a Third Aesthetic. To me, (WAFRICA represents) the new and enlightened international consciousness that can emerge when unique treasures are juxtaposed,” he says.
This Third Aesthetic comes to life in WAFRICA’s signature wax-print cotton kimonos, Cameroonian-influenced tea ceremonies and Japanese-lacquered Pygmy-carved wooden chairs, among other cultural collaborations – each of them products of Mouangue’s ability to step outside of the boundaries of the world as we know it in order to paint a picture of how the world knows us.
His West African-inspired kimonos are more than wearable art. They are physical representations of the meeting of cultures and the potential of cultures to evolve. Through his designs, Mouangue challenges the tendency of traditions to close themselves off to new lived experiences and new modes of existence.
A 2011 TED Fellow with academic and professional stripes in Art, Design, Architecture and Innovation, Mouangue might easily have taken the Western science-fiction route to his Third Aesthetic – to establish a postmodern aesthetic by erasing all difference, for example. Instead, he creates a picture of a shared future by connecting ritual, ceremony and ancient processes both common and unique to Africa and Asia.