The Museum of West African Art (MOWAA) gets a rebrand that amplifies the region’s heritage and contemporary art

With a logo inspired by the museum’s site plans, a colourway that reflects Benin City’s landscape and an identity that boasts its far-reaching collection – this branding helps to connect West Africa’s budding cultural hub to the world.

Date
1 May 2024

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The new brand identity and website for the Museum of West African Art (MOWAA), has been unveiled. The physical site hopes to establish itself as the “cultural capital of West Africa”, by showcasing the history and evolution of culture, creativity and scholarship in the region. With the London-based branding and communications studio Human After All heading the visual identity redesign, the adaptable branding stands to make a mark in the digital realm, serving as a way for the institution to share knowledge, platform its artists and connect with people both near and far.

Since Human After All’s inception, the team have been drawn to projects that boast societal impact. Take the recent brand identity project for Plume Health, the online gender affirming healthcare service; or its long-standing partnership with Greenpeace, which has resulted in a number of projects including the People vs. Oil campaign, one for action on unethical fishing and another to decentralise the fossil fuel industry. When it came to MOWAA, it was drawn in by the institution’s mission to expand its reach of art and culture while amplifying contemporary African artists.

“Initially the client contacted us with a website and a slight brand evolution in mind,” says Anna Vasileiou, the studio’s design director. This kickstarted a collaborative process with the museum, honing in on the premise of bringing West African art and culture to the forefront. “[We realised that] MOWAA had to be seen as a world class centre. The brand needs to sit alongside spaces such as MOMA or the Tate while retaining its own identity and being true to its own values,” Anna adds.

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Human After All: MOWAA (Copyright © Human After All, 2024)

Throughout the branding, there’s this sense of tradition meeting an ever growing and fluid landscape, which is owed to Human After All’s approach to centring the artworks at every turn. Heritage is showcased in the form of artefacts and the budding creative scene is declared with a focus on contemporary paintings and moving assets that shine a light on films by the likes of British-Nigerian artist Onyeka Igwe. It consistently strikes a balance between being authentic to the cultural production and translating this impact to the world. “At the start of the project we delved into learning more about the type of exhibits and artworks MOWAA has, and we noticed these incredible patterns that kept recurring,” Anna tells us.

With this, the team decided that the branding had to sit “at the intersection of the past and present”; the logo being inspired by the “static strength” in the Edo (a state in Southern Nigeria) architecture of the building. “The site consists of various block buildings with Edo elements mixed with contemporary arches,” Anna shares, “so we decided to take the site plans and turn them into a mark that can be stacked or aligned horizontally to reflect the flexibility of the building space as well as the various elements that are brought together inside the museum.”

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Human After All: MOWAA (Copyright © Human After All, 2024)

Although the branding process “wasn’t easy”, Anna shares, the team are overjoyed with the identity’s holistic impact. For example, the imagery. It wasn’t something that the team could control, so they decided to create from a position that would enable the brand to function without it. Much to our surprise, a lot of the imagery became available afterward, and so the team decided to incorporate it without treatment which explains why the artwork doesn’t feel overshadowed by the design.

When it comes to the colour palette, there’s this sense of the natural environment coming through; earth tones, yellows, and documentations of the assets taken against the backdrop of the outdoors. Anna says that the landscape was the main inspiration here, and the team “didn’t want to use stereotypical colour combinations. We instead worked with the client to ensure they felt the choices were right for them and the world they operate in”. This is a great example of how, overall, the graphic identity feels very much in tune with the institution’s conceptual mission and physical manifestation on many levels – something many museum brands try to, but don’t always, achieve.

Meanwhile, the physical space for MOWAA is under construction, with a phased opening starting this year. The first building, the Institute, was designed by architecture firm Adjaye Associates, so the institution has had to respond to recent allegations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct that were brought against the firm’s founder and co-CEO David Adjaye last year. According to The Art Newspaper, MOWAA director Philip Ihenacho has stated that the museum doesn’t condone the behaviour described, however it could not make statements, because they do not “possess sufficient knowledge/information”. Adjaye has said he “categorically” rejects any allegations of sexual misconduct or abuse made against him. Otherwise, MOWAA continues to work with local firms such as Studio Contra, Worofila and MOE+ on the rest of the project.

GalleryHuman After All: MOWAA (Copyright © Human After All, 2024)

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Human After All: MOWAA (Copyright © Human After All, 2024)

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About the Author

Yaya Azariah Clarke

Yaya (they/them) joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in June 2023 and became a staff writer in November of the same year. With a particular interest in Black visual culture, they have previously written for publications such as WePresent, alongside work as a researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.

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