Meet the Parisian Art Collective Reviving a Defunct West African Airline

On a mild evening in June, hundreds of punters arrived at Espace Niemeyer in Paris for the Kaleidoscope Manifesto Festival. Wearing Telfar bags and bucket hats, those in the know made a beeline towards one highly-curated corner, designed to resemble a 1960s-style African travel agency. Retro-modern chairs upholstered in sage-toned leather were surrounded by anodyne office trinkets, while a chunky vintage keyboard and phone invited viewers to play. The words “Air Afrique” were plastered onto the back wall in bold black type, accompanied by a forest green antelope emblem.

Opening during Men’s Fashion Week, it was a star-studded—and very stylish—affair. U.S. rappers A$AP Nast and Aminé snapped photos behind the mock-reception desk, as did the Nigerian-born fashion designer Mowalola Ogunlesi. Mati Diop, the French-Senegalese director behind the prizewinning film Atlantics, showed face, too.

Images from an editorial series made for the exhibition Bienvenue à Bord  in September 2021.

Photo: Djiby Kebe & Jeremy Konko for Air Afrique

The installation was curated by the Air Afrique collective, a group of four Parisian creatives that have named themselves after a defunct West African travel provider. This imagined travel agency is one of several projects they have rolled out over the past three years, all of which contribute to their sprawling, multidisciplinary mission to document and preserve the airline’s story.

“We want the name to keep traveling,” says 29-year-old Lamine Diaoune, the collective’s founder. A cinephile, he bought the rights to Air Afrique’s name and logo after spotting in sub-Saharan films from the 1960s; cult titles like La noire de… by Ousmane Sembène, which tells the story of a Senegalese woman who travels to Antibes to work for a wealthy French couple. “I was really struck by the name Air Afrique,” he continues. “I found it very powerful, it stopped me in my tracks, so I started researching.”

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