My Cumulus PLUS+ Story by Edward Appiah

Representing Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana
Participated in the Cumulus Conference: “Around the Campfire: Resilience and Intelligence”.
May 27 – June 1, 2019 in Rovaniemi, Finland hosted by University of Lapland.

I had the privilege of coming face-to-face with the network of design community worldwide and the interaction and the atmosphere was a rare that seemed like standing before long-lost relatives and friends from the other parts of the world.

The universe has a way of making things happen at the exact time and place. Being part of the Cumulus Conference Around the Campfire: Resistance and Intelligence in Rovaniemi, Finland was an experience I can never forget. Indeed, I saw that as one of my highlights in my design profession in recent times of being. The city, the host university, University of Lapland and coinciding with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Pan Afrikan Design Institute (PADI) and Cumulus, was an experience worth reporting.

The participants, coming from the numerous and various design institutions – some of whom I’ve read about, interacted with virtually, and meeting them face to face for the first time, created such an ecstasy feelings which added up to the euphoria.

At Cumulus Rovaniemi, I had the privilege of coming face-to-face with the network of design community worldwide and the interaction and the atmosphere was a rare that seemed like standing before long-lost relatives and friends from the other parts of the world. From Helsinki to Rovaniemi airport, and even in the bus from Rovaniemi airport, the ‘family relationship atmosphere’ captured the mood of the conference, despite the chilly weather embracing some of us for the first time in many years.

The pre-conference visit to Aalto University and the reception dinner at the City hall really set the tone for the rest of the four-day design conference. Keynote speeches, working groups, design conversations, paper presentations, researches , installations , performances , gala evenings , camp fire in beautiful Lapland with Art, Design , Media and Architecture academicians and practitioners from 250 plus institutions from across the globe, put together in a picturesque of oratory of design.

In ‘Indigenous peoples design and Storytelling purposes of Arctic Indigenous Film Fund”, Prof. Lisa Holmberg open participants minds to hold on to cultural and traditions that seek to flourish the design culture on every tribe, true filming. Matt Jones was later to challenge the design community to be critical about the trends and of innovation and designing, especially with technology. In his keynote message on the second day, “The Robots are Coming – Be Afraid”, Matt admonished designers to be conscious about our ‘creation’ since our designers could be problems as well as solutions to the world.

The highlights of the opening session was the introduction of Cumulus Plus awardees, of which I was one of them, and the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Cumulus and Pan Afrikan Design Institute (PADI). Other activities of the first day was the workshop on “Cumulus on Sustainability” was quite an interesting and apt to environmental sustainability.

Papers/Researches on ‘Cultural and Participatory Perspectives’ were also insightful. In this section I will single out “Social Innovation and Co-Creation through Design: utilising natural resources to facilitate sustainable development” which was presented by Harah Chon and Batul Pitha Wala. This was a research that sought to encourage designers to co-create and co-design with ‘non-designers’ in the local communities.

Indeed, other aspects of the conference, workshops and the working group sections brought new thinking and paradigms among peers and kindled spirits of participants, as well as the various case studies on innovation and sustainability. For me, such cross-cultural and collaboration clearly illustrate the growing multi-disciplinarily of the design and creative practices, which should be championed by the design community. It demonstrates the need for designers to open up the design space to accommodate other humanities, science and technology in our various universities and educational institutions. Above all, it also highlights the need to strengthen collaborations between the industry and the academia; an issue that cannot be over-emphasised despite the many challenges and obstacles.

Emotionally, I have been linked to my other Cumulus plus awardees; Venny (from Uganda), Sofia (from Argentina) and Biljana (from Serbia), together with other design thinkers. I will forever cherish these great memories of Cumulus Rovaniemi at the University of Lapland, with all the meaningful conversations with design thinkers and networking in the beautiful natural surroundings. Of course, the visit to the Artic Circle; home of the Santa Claus – will also be a lasting memory.

I am grateful to Cumulus for the opportunity given that has far-reaching aspiration for my design profession and more so, as an educator, who aspire to shape young design minds in Africa and the world at large. I celebrate Cumulus for the internationalization platform that truly enables all its members and affiliates throughout the world connect in such a friendly atmosphere.

Edward Appiah DTD (Design)
Coordinator: Research and Postgraduate Studies
Department of Communication Design
Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana
and also representing Pan Afrikan Design Institute
eddappiah@gmail.com
eappiart.art@knust.edu.gh

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