Yinka Ilori ‘Reflection in Numbers’ Pavilion Unveiled in Berlin

Reflection in Numbers (2024), Pavillon des britisch-nigerianischen Künstlers und Designers Yinka Ilori MBE, Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), 2024. Foto: Hannes Wiedemann / HKW

British-Nigerian multi-disciplinary artist and designer Yinka Ilori has created a Pavilion at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) in Berlin. Ilori’s Reflection in Numbers Pavilion was unveiled as part of the festival Ballet of the Masses—On Football and Catharsis, and invites visitors to embark on a critical and artistic journey that explores the complex themes of racism in sports. 

Ilori’s work is underpinned by the assertion that ‘the audience must be held accountable for their actions’. What does accountability really mean, to all of us? And what forms can a response to being held accountable take? 

The Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) inaugurated the first annual pavilion in 2023 as part of an architectural series titled Shaped to the Measure of the People’s Songs, which continues in 2024 with Yinka Ilori’s Reflection in Numbers Pavilion. Ilori’s Pavilion is not just an artistic representation but a critical examination of issues related to racism in sports. Through its architectural design, it places a deliberate emphasis on the experiences of players who, through football and sports in general, are in a constant state of oscillation between a sense of belonging and the fear of radical exclusion. 

The pavilion raises questions on how to deal with racist and discriminatory chants that too often can be heard from the stands at football games. Design elements like mirrors are used in the interior of the pavilion as an impetus for self-reflection and serve as a tool to remind the visitor of their own accountability in perpetuating a culture of exclusion. The round shape of the stadium-like structure means visitors are surrounded by mirrors, no matter where they stand on the inside. Even when standing alone in the pavilion, the mirrors give the sense of being watched by a mass—a multiplication of oneself. By entering this space, the visitor agrees to experience an unusual form of self-consciousness. 

Reflection in Numbers (2024), Pavillon des britisch-nigerianischen Künstlers und Designers Yinka Ilori MBE, Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), 2024. Foto: Hannes Wiedemann / HKW.

Inspired by the knowledge systems of Western African communities, Ilori’s architectural design for this year’s pavilion integrates the calabash as a visually mediating symbol, and aesthetic metaphor representing the spirit of participation and conviviality. The calabash is used ubiquitously in West Africa as a key component for musical instruments such as the kora or the ngoni, and alternatively as a utensil for religious purposes, as well as for food and drink. Its material presence as a symbol of inclusivity is central to the thematic design of the pavilion. It provides an ambient participatory space, mirroring the vibrant atmosphere of football matches, where festivity and sound abound. The calming and resonant power of the built-in calabash instruments also symbolically mimics, amplifies, and reinterprets the chants of the masses in stadiums. 

Visitors cease to be mere spectators; instead, they are actively encouraged to become participants in this multisensory experience that resonates within those present, the house, the surroundings, and the wider Ballet of the Masses programme. The calabash instruments that form an integral component of the pavilion, a collection of Kumbengo kora, invites visitors to engage with the artistic narrative by playing music, adding their own contribution to the collective symphony. 

Reflection in Numbers is a continuation of Ilori’s public design installations in Berlin, Germany. It follows Filtered Rays, which was Yinka’s first permanent installation in Berlin, on the banks of the River Spree in Neukölln. 

Photo credit: Hannes Wiedemann / HKW.

Yinka Ilori MBE is a London-based, British-Nigerian multi-disciplinary artist and designer, whose bold visual language draws on his heritage to convey new narratives through contemporary design. Drawing on Nigerian parables and verbal traditions, Ilori touches on a multitude of themes that resonate with a global audience. His work is underpinned by the belief that art and design should be accessible to all. Humorous, provocative, and playful, his projects demonstrate how design can bring together communities and have a positive impact on society, evoking a sense of joy and optimism. A graduate of London Metropolitan University’s BA in Furniture and Product Design, Ilori’s work has been showcased globally through solo and group exhibitions, public commissions and set and exhibition design. 

Yinka Ilori Reflection in Numbers pavilion is at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin until 31st October, 2024.

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