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ADS2: Black Horizons – Worlding within the Ruins of Racial Capitalism

Lauren-Loïs Duah

Lauren-Loïs Duah joined the RCA after spending some time working in London and completing her first year of Master’s in Canterbury. Her first-year focus had a strong social agenda observing protests and architecture at points of social change to independently produce a mini-series, (‘The Youtopia Podcast’, 2021), and she hopes to continue expanding her understanding of similar themes by joining ADS2 for her final year. 

Lauren-Loïs’ previous experience in Textiles & Design, Fine Art and Literature continue to influence her practice by drawing from various forms of design. She values the multi-disciplinary possibilities of architecture, and aims to explore how art, architecture and craft can intersect to be used to engage communities through spatial design, and enact positive social change. 

Outside of university, Lauren-Loïs is currently working at Atelier UCA in collaboration with Yinka Ilori Studios and Turner Contemporary to produce a Community Art Project in King’s Hill, Kent. In addition to this, Lauren-Loïs is working on exploring and pushing her art + textiles practice beyond this project and hoping to exhibit some of her personal work soon. 

Lauren-Loïs Duah-statement

Obroni Wa'awu: Worlding beyond Cross-Continental Clothescapes

In Twi (or Akan), ‘Obroni Wa-wu’ (or, 'broni wawu') literally means ‘the white man has died’. The phrase colloquially refers to second-hand clothing in Ghana, and local people explain the phrase suggests that someone must have died to let go of all these clothing items. 

This project aims to investigate how fast fashion is necessitated by Racial Capitalism and the effect of the Global North’s ‘Dirty Laundry’ on creating a Crisis of Cross-continental ‘Clothescapes’ in cities like Accra, Ghana. This project has coined the word ‘Clothescapes’ to refer to the spatial condition of landfill sites in the Global South which are often overfilled with imported second-hand ‘waste’ from countries in the Global North and the spatial crisis that emerges from living and worlding in these textile landscapes. From this investigation developed a form of 'sorting' the sites of intervention as places of 'care' or 'uncare'. 

There also emerged a need to highlight traditional forms of textile production in Ghana, such as the weaving techniques to produce Kente cloth, or the calabash block-printing methods of mudcloth prints and how traditional textile makers and tailors in the local textile industry are negatively affected by the low-prices and high influx of obroni wa’awu. 

Clothing becomes a powerful portal into the topic of labour, migration and supply-chain economies which have cross-continental consequences. Growing up in a Ghanaian household allowed Lauren-Lois to observe how clothing and textiles can be a powerful medium for understanding identity and culture. This project aims to document forms of worlding which exist in places of care, such as domestic spaces where clothing is treasured then discarded, and across the world in markets like Kantamanto, where bale after bale of obroni wa’awu is sorted, repaired, restored, sold or sent away.

Initial Research Video

"Obroni (oborɔnyi) W'awu"

Initial Research Video on the spatial implications of Capitalist Overproduction. 

Mixed Footage Credits:

Broni W'awu ('Ghallywood/Kumawood' film, 2015) - featuring Van Vicker & Kwaku Manu 

"The Environmental Disaster that is Fuelled by Used Clothes and Fast Fashion" (2021) - Foreign Correspondent

"The true cost of fast fashion" (2018) - The Economist + @thewoolmarkcompany 

+ various screen recordings, collected images 

Captions + words: Lauren-Lois Duah

Project Overview Page + Technical Detail
Project Overview Page + Technical Detail
Interior View
Interior View In the central pathways of the market, the structure is elevated at various heights between 4m - 6m to allow for those who may be carrying large items to pass through with ease while still receiving shade from the canopies above. Extending the height of these central, wider pathways keeps these structures from feeling constrictive.
Kayayei's Kitchen
Kayayei's KitchenWhen speaking with Kayayei girls Samantha & Yvette*, they spoke about how one of their favourite memories of the market was to buy rice at the end of a long day and sit and enjoy it with friends. When designing this space, I thought of them, and of creating a Kitchen/Canteen space for Kayayei girls to have a place of convening and creating community through sharing their favourite foods together.

My initial proposal looked at ways in which I could create an architecture that responds to the issue of overconsumption, which reflects back on my initial research question. 

In my second proposal, I look at ways in which an architecture of care can be employed to support a small community in the supply-chain. The intended effects of this design are to disrupt the supply-chain by creating an architecture that provides care – through the shade from the canopies, as well as points of respite for the kayayei girls. In the beginning moment, it remains a typology that exists in the ‘in-betweens’ of the market stalls, however, this post+beam typology uses readily-available materials found around the market, and is adaptable and could grow upwards and around key spaces in the market to continue to solidify the market’s importance and need to be retained even as Accra expands and develops over time. 

Furthermore, I often questioned how and why this addition to the market would be effective – although the structure reflects the DIY nature of the stalls, it also aims to give permanence to the market through its architectural height and design consideration. To me this is a form of using architecture as a form of protest or resistance against gentrification, it is a way of retaining a common space which is frequented by those of a lower socio-economic background who still need and deserve equal access to the city despite its fast development and expansion. 

*From 'When the Site Speaks Back' - Part 3: "Kayayei Kasa" 

Initial Design
Initial Design
Design + Colour Development
Design + Colour Development
Final Design
Final Design
BTS Photos
BTS Photos
Assembling the Skirt
Assembling the Skirt
My Grandmother speaks about 'Obroni Wa'awu'(Audio snippet of my Grandmother speaking in Twi, her native language, about Obroni Wa'awu)
Pattern Story, media item 7

I spent a lot of time here researching three key traditional forms of textile making in Ghana – the first, the weaving of Kente cloth, the second the use of Adinkra symbols not only in textile printmaking, but also in the formwork of much of the architecture we visited in Ghana, and lastly the use of Wax-print cloth. One of the aims of the project was to use the visual language of colours, symbols and drawings to tell the story of my project, and thus the panels you see are informed by the textile technologies of traditional textile-making in Ghana.  

I also went through the process of creating my own Adinkra Symbol for this project, titled after the Kayayei (female porters) who are often referred to as the backbone of Kantamanto Market. There are many workers who keep markets like Kantamanto functioning, like Kayayei Girls who carry loads of up to 50kg including bales of clothing or second-hand goods on their heads while navigating Accra’s streets, roadsides and market paths in the sub-Saharan heat daily, often without breaks or points for respite. Kayayei are informal workers - this means they are unprotected by any worker's rights and susceptible to being exploited and overworking to make a living. In my renders, the Kayayei Print I designed while in Ghana becomes a motif and tribute to the labour and plight of these women.   

Asase / Earth
Asase / EarthWe begin in the fields. Referring directly to the earth from which raw material is sourced, this can be a site of un-care as the expertise and time needed to grow something from the ground can be excessive, and the conditions of workers in fields and processing factories are continuous sites of unfair labour and exploitation. Transforming the raw material from fibre, to fabric, to fashion involves a complex chain of processing and supply operations...
Ahoɔden Dwuma / Hard Labour
Ahoɔden Dwuma / Hard LabourIn these factories, the clothing takes its first steps by taking on a 3D form to fit the body; however, the hands that labour for over 12 hours every day show that the factory is yet another site of exploitation. The Rana Plaza disaster which occurred on the 24th April, 2013 clearly shows the extents through which the clothing industry continues to practice unethically and dangerously.
Nkwa / (First) Life
Nkwa / (First) LifeThe shop floors of high-street stores like H&M, Primark, Zara, Nike seem completely detached from these initial material conditions. Oxford Street boasts more than 300 stores, and around half a million visitors pass through this retail hub every day.
Kodoɔ / Suhyɛn / The Ship
Kodoɔ / Suhyɛn / The ShipThe second-hand clothing trade became popularised around the time when the demand for western-style clothing was at its peak in the 60s, and many countries in Africa remain tethered to their colonial connections through the opportunity to embrace western ideals of 'development' through clothing. Shipping containers which carry newly made clothes to countries in the Global North, and then carry the 'obroni wa’awu' to either be resold or discarded.
Eja / Fire
Eja / Fire When clothes can't be sold, they are discarded and domestically disposed of in Accra’s landfill sites. In recent years, landfill sites have filled up at unprecedented rates, resulting in many landfills being overfilled. Burning the uppermost layer is common practice, however this also releases harmful gasses into the air and affects neighbouring settlements.
Nsuo / Water
Nsuo / Water In Ghana, places like Osu beach regularly see 'tentacles' of discarded clothing buried deep in the sandbanks or washing up on the shores from the Sea. Millions of textile waste are dumped into the Gulf of Guinea or buried in the clogs the sewers increasing the risks of diseases like malaria and cholera. Korle Lagoon remains one of the most heavily polluted rivers in Accra, and it leads right to the ocean. Communities that must live nearby with the consequences of poor waste management. 
Asase / Field
Asase / FieldGirls like Asana from part three of Atmos Magazine's video series, 'Dead White Man's Clothes', who work as 'kayeyei' - women who carry the bales of clothing on their heads. Kayeyei are informal workers - this means they are unprotected by any worker's rights and susceptible to being exploited and overworking to make a living.
Cross Continental Clothescapes: A Supply Chain Story, Hand drawings, digital illustration

These panels aim to begin to unravel the threads of the second-hand clothing supply chain narrative, while presenting my speculative interventions. The process of mapping out the supply-chain in this format, using architectural drawing techniques as well as referring to traditional forms of story-telling and record keeping such as the oral tradition through recordings of conversations in the sites in this project form an alternative precedent for a visual masterplan which aims to show the connections and overlaps in this supply-chain story.  

The clothing supply chain story exists in multiple parts that act simultaneously to perpetually keep the processes in play. When unravelling the supply chain, there appear so many loose threads that the entirety of its cohesion begins to fall apart; every action has an equal and opposite reaction, or at least a connecting point. We often say ‘there is no ethical consumption under capitalism’, and this becomes increasingly apparent when we look at how everything is so closely interconnected, yet our alienation from the sites of production allows consumers to continue the capitalist-consumerist cycle. These panels aim to use alternate formats of data presentation (visual storytelling) to humanise elements of the supply-chain that western shoppers often have the luxury of being oblivious to...


Hand drawings, digital illustration
PART 2: “FOLLOW THE LEADER” Site Visit with ‘Equal’ to Kantamanto Market, (Accra, Ghana) on 2/03/22
When The Site Speaks Back: Kantamanto Market, media item 2

Transcripts of interviews, conversations + sounds from Kantamanto Market, Accra + Kumasi (Ghana) form an ongoing archive of audio-based site analysis.

Click the link below for the audio version:

Trans-Epistemic Cosmogram, media item 1