The most engaged designers of today have committed themselves to more than just clothes. Loewe has its Craft Prize and Gucci has its Chime zine, while Bottega Veneta’s efforts to enrich the cultural health of its fans have led to the revival of BUTT magazine and the launch of Air Afrique, a new magazine which will be premiered at the Centre Pompidou in Paris this evening. Named after the pan-African airline that ran from 1961 to 2001, the publication is a platform for diasporic conversations on art and culture. “We want to revive the African transcendence that Air Afrique represented,” says creative director Lamine Diaoune. “Our mission is to preserve this heritage, to put Air Afrique back in the cultural conversation, and to build on their example of cultural engagement.”
Inspired by the pan-African magazines of the 20th century – among them the in-flight publication Balafon – each issue will combine archival ephemera from the airline alongside contemporary works from French, French-Caribbean, and African thinkers. “Air Afrique was more than an airline. It was a cultural platform,” says co-founder Djiby Kebe. “We want to share the Air Afrique archive and create our own archive – to capture this moment of change in Black awareness and expression.” The inaugural edition is fronted by French-Congolese rapper Tiakola and centres on the word “heritage” – including first-person accounts of the airline from the Senegalese philosopher Souleymane Bachir Diagne, interviews with a former pilot and air steward, Paul Kodjo’s photo stories from Abidjan in the 1970s, and artwork from the Haitian-American Marcus Brutus, who imagined what a pan-African airline might look like in 2023.
To coincide with the launch, Abdel el Tayeb – an ascendant designer who works in the Bottega Veneta atelier – will release a series of limited-edition Afro-futuristic blankets bearing the vibration-raising patterns of traditional Sudanese toub dresses. In an increasingly hostile media landscape, Bottega Veneta’s patronage of independent publications throws a life raft to creatives working on the peripheries of the mainstream. “With our print partnerships, we recognise the craft, creativity, and quiet power of smaller-scale publications, which give voice to specific communities,” the brand said, noting its early collaborations with Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine. “Each magazine exemplifies quality design, editorial rigour, and a clarity and originality of vision.” Click through the gallery above to get a further glimpse at the inside pages of Air Afrique.