Once a thriving hub, home to cultural pride and the pan-Africanism of the 1960s and 1970s The Africa Centre in London welcomed luminaries from the world of politics, arts, and culture, alongside the general public. But as the 2000s ushered in a new century it became evident that The Africa Centre had lost its spark. Fast forward a couple of tumultuous decades, which included the sale of its beloved Covent Garden home, The Africa Centre is once again reclaiming its place in the heart of the UK’s African community, and the heart of cultural London.
The reinvigorated The Africa Centre now calls London’s Bankside home. A state-of-being that began with the purchase of a nondescript office block, which has been transformed by architectural studio Freehaus co-led by Jonathon Hagos. Defined by a black exterior punctuated by Moroso’s colourful outdoor chairs, handcrafted in Senegal, the building’s interior invites you into a warm and soulful space filled with furniture and objects sourced from some of Africa’s finest design & craft studios.
Conceived by interior designer Tola Ojuolape, The Africa Centre interior is a celebration of African creativity showcased against a backdrop of textured walls that begin with a graduating sandy colour on the ground floor and give way to indigo as you make your way up to the dedicated gallery space on the 2nd floor. The design aesthetic references the different corners of the content and pays homage to the beauty and soul of exceptional hand craftsmanship.
Patterned hand-woven textiles by Aïssa Dione Tissus upholster wooden hand-joined seating. Crochet and woven pendant lights crafted by Hamimi, and Modern Gesture respectively, hang side by side over clusters of wooden and basket woven stools that flank solid wood live edge tables handcrafted by master carpenter John Alfredo Harris.
As the sourcing and procurement connection between the makers, interior designer and The Africa Centre decision-makers I was honoured to be part of the interiors team bringing Tola’s and The Africa Centre’s vision to fruition. And having spent some time in the completed new look The Africa Centre I can say that it truly feels like home.
With its new home and welcoming interior, The Africa Centre is once again positioning itself as a home away from home for Africans in the diaspora.