Cover story: Michael MacGarry
Each month Wallpaper* offers a leading creative figure carte blanche to design a limited-edition cover, available exclusively to our subscribers. Here, Johannesburg-based artist Michael MacGarry reveals the inspiration behind his digital illustration for the April 2020 issue, arriving in post boxes anytime now
For his cover, MacGarry devised a digital drawing which imagines what the Mozambican capital of Maputo could look like in the year 2050. The artwork builds on MacGarry’s ‘100 Suns’ series, usually presented as large-scale inkjet prints on cotton paper.
The series speculates on the power of natural resources to drive growth. Fossil fuels, in particular, have propelled many African nation states to economic success, and populated their cities with soaring, architectural mega-structures in concrete, glass and metal. Mozambique, a country whose debt is equivalent to 100 per cent of its GDP, discovered a natural gas field off the Cabo Delgado coast in 2011. It is now sitting on a compelling opportunity to start writing off its debts.
Tensions are inherent to MacGarry’s portrayal of the Maputo of the future. While teeming with futuristic, alluring architecture, this city is not exactly a promised land. MacGarry is keen to highlight ‘histories of deeply problematic colonial abuses, prolonged civil war and institutional corruption’. His rendering is like a visual cryptograph in ink, as complex as the history of Mozambique itself. He’s interested in interrogating the role oil has played in the several hundred years of crimes perpetrated by Western powers. Likewise, he points to sustainability being a deeply problematised issue in contemporary Africa, as it goes against the interests of fossil fuel extractors and users, thereby threatening a key opportunity for a brighter African future.
Central to MacGarry’s series is the issue of considered growth. His rendering confronts us with the question of whether we want our developing world to keep growing as it is now, which is, in fact, not so different from how it was developing a century ago. Given what we now know of the impact of unbridled urban development, is this still the vision of the future?
A man of many talents, MacGarry recently contributed his photographs of Kiamba Kiaxi, an attempt by Chinese investors to build a new city in Angola, to the new book, Africa State of Mind which features in our April issue. Edited by Ekow Eshun, a former artistic director of London’s ICA, the book offers a comprehensive introduction to African photographers who have wielded their lens to re-envision and re-interpret their continent. §
MacGarry’s digital illustration is the latest addition to the Wallpaper* limited-edition cover series, which features a specially created artwork by a different artist each month. Limited-edition covers are available to subscribers only; for more information, see wallpaper.com/subscribe
Africa State of Mind (£40), available from 26 March, published by Thames & Hudson