AUGUST 10, 2023

Air Afrique: From Defunct Airline to Pan-African Cultural Collective

Air Afrique, a once-defunct West African airline, has been reborn as a Pan-African collaborative entity based in Paris, spearheaded by visionaries Lamine Diaoune, Djiby Kebe, and Jeremy Konko. Despite the airline's grounding in 2002, the spirit of Air Afrique has been revitalized through a Pan-African collaborative initiative.The collective's efforts have resulted in the creation of an enriching magazine, developed in partnership with Bottega Veneta, currently available for purchase. This new editorial venture pays homage to the post-colonial independence spirit in West Africa and the ideals of Pan-Africanism. The magazine aims to recapture the beauty and essence of Air Afrique, reflecting its heritage even after its discontinuation.

Reviving the Essence: Air Afrique Magazine

The collective introduces "Air Afrique" magazine as a dedication to contemporary Afro-diasporic arts, knowledge, and dialogues.The publication aligns with the cultural aspirations of the original airline, continuing the legacy of its in-flight magazine, Balafon. Balafon, the inaugural edition of the magazine, embodied the beauty of Afro-diaspora during the airline's operational years from 1961 until its closure. Available in French and English, the magazine seeks to rekindle Air Afrique's initial mission of conveying the cultural and historical diversity of Africa. The magazine's Editor-in-Chief, Amandine Nana, leads the initiative, curating a collection of photographs highlighting Pan-African art, culture, and beauty.

Covering Pan-African Expression and Identity

The inaugural edition's cover showcases four African artists harmonizing through song, dance, and Jazz music rhythms.Drawing inspiration from the airline's past, the cover art mirrors the essence of traditional Pan-Africanism.
The cover art portrays a Black woman with straight back cornrows, a symbol of Black culture, and natural makeup representing the inherent beauty of Africans. For men, the cover features a clean shave and a side-parted afro, embracing contemporary elements of the Balafon revival.

A Vision Unveiled: Debut and Transformation

The debut of the magazine took place during Paris Fashion Week in June, with its introduction to the Black community in France. Air Afrique, initially a joint venture between AirFrance and Union Aéromaritime de Transport (UAT), re-emerged in Paris as the airline transitioned into African ownership. Despite its French roots, Air Afrique's ownership predominantly shifted to West African nations starting in the 1980s. As the official transnational carrier for West and Central Africa, Air Afrique had its headquarters in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Co-owned by 11 West African countries, Air Afrique served as a cultural platform, fostering a shared African identity and fostering cross-national collaboration.

A New Chapter: The Magazine's Launch and Afro-Futuristic Designs

To mark the magazine's launch, Creative Director Matthieu Blazy commissioned a series of blankets designed by Bottega Veneta's Franco-Sudanese designer, Abdel El Tayeb. These blankets artfully incorporate Sudan's history and contemporary identity, embodying Afro-futuristic designs. El Tayeb's creations blend fine wool, silver leather, and shearling from the brand's archive, offering a remarkable synthesis of elements. Air Afrique's transformation celebrates the beauty of African culture, identity, and expression through the pages of its magazine and artistic collaborations.

Source: Essence



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