Air Afrique, a defunct airline from West Africa, has transformed into the name of a Pan-African collaborative based in Paris. Founded by Lamine Diaoune, Djiby Kebe and Jeremy Konko, the visionary minds have ushered in a new era. Through their efforts, Air Afrique has unveiled a magazine in collaboration with Bottega Veneta currently available for sale. The new editorial pays homage to the spirit of post-colonial independence in West Africa and the traditions of Pan-Africanism. Remarkably, the beauty of Air Afrique has not been lost even after the airline’s grounding in 2002.
“A publication dedicated to contemporary Afro-diasporic arts, knowledge and conversations,” the collective stated in a release. “The Air Afrique magazine is in line with the cultural aspirations of the airline that paved the way for our cultural endeavors and is the heir to its in-flight magazine Balafon.”
Balafon, the inaugural publication of the magazine, symbolized the beauty of the Afro-diaspora during the airline’s operations from 1961 until its cessation. Published in French and English, the new magazine aims to revive Air Afrique’s original mission to transmit the cultural and historical diversity of the African continent. At the helm is Editor-in-Chief, Amandine Nana, who spearheads the publication full of photographs of Pan-African art, culture, and beauty.
The inaugural edition’s cover features a quartet of African artists harmonizing through song, dance, and the rhythms of Jazz music. Drawing inspiration from the January/February 1990 issue, the most recent cover art mirrors the essence of traditional Pan-Africanism.The Black woman has straight back cornrows, a hairstyle steeped in Black culture, with natural makeup to symbolize the innate beauty of Africans. For the men, a clean shave and side-parted afro contribute to the contemporary nature of the Balafon revival.
Debuting during June’s Paris Fashion Week, the first edition was unveiled to the Black community in France. Air Afrique, a joint venture between AirFrance and Union Aéromaritime de Transport (UAT), returned to the city to continue the dialogue as the airline transitioned into African acquisition. Although founded by a French Airline, Air Afrique found itself under the ownership of West African nations for the majority of its operational history, beginning in the 1980s.
As the official transnational carrier for West and Central Africa, Air Afrique had headquarters in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Motivated by a common African identity, the 11 countries co-owning the airline included the Congo, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Chad. “Air Afrique was more than an airline. It was a cultural platform,” said Kebe. “We want to share the Air Afrique archive and create our own archive – to capture this moment of change in Black awareness and expression.”
To mark the launch of the Air Afrique magazine, Creative Director Matthieu Blazy commissioned a collection of blankets by Bottega Veneta’s Franco-Sudanese designer Abdel El Tayeb. Weaving in Sudan’s history and contemporary identity, El Tayeb’s Afro-futuristic designs are a beautiful composition of fine wool, silver leather, and shearling from the brand’s archive.
Air Afrique embarks anew on its journey, navigating a compilation of distinctive artifacts and designs crafted as an homage to their enduring flight.