Thursday 7 September 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 7/9/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Ope Adetayo

Hostile takeovers

Yet another coup has rocked Africa. This time, it is in oil-rich Gabon, which has become the eighth country in West and Central Africa to experience a military takeover since 2020. The rationale for these coups is that the military wants to save democracy, which in much of Africa is essentially a dead machine. In Gabon, the deposed Ali Bongo had been in power for almost 14 years, following his father’s four-decade rule. In Niger, Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso, the governments have ostensibly been removed as a result of their failures to overcome security issues and address their failing economies.

But make no mistake: the militaries are not stepping in to save the day. They are merely grabbing opportunities and exploiting the frustrations of the people. About 60 per cent of Africa’s population is under the age of 25 and this teeming demographic of young people is caught in the crosshairs of economic, climate and security hardships. They are disillusioned with the fixation on democracy. That is not to say that Africans welcome coups but the era of insisting on form over substance is over. People no longer just want elections; they want credible elections. The same goes for protection from the effects of climate change and against the armed forces that are encircling the Sahel, as well as equal distribution of wealth, which is being cornered by the elites.

For so long, the threshold for what qualifies as democracy on the continent has been acutely low, allowing politicians to misuse their office. People are tired of the illusion and want a change. Militaries recognise the sources of these frustrations, including the legitimate backlash against French influence, and are tapping into them at a time when tensions are running high. They will be no better than politicians: as reality has shown us time and again, they are often far worse.

Ope Adetayo is a Monocle contributor based in Lagos. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / India

Name of the game

A row has broken out after India replaced its name with a Sanskrit word on dinner invitations sent to guests attending this weekend’s G20 summit. The official invitation referred to Droupadi Murmu as the president of “Bharat” instead of India. According to members of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the change is part of an effort to reclaim the country’s Hindu past by eliminating colonial-era names introduced by the British. But opposition parties have accused Narendra Modi (pictured) of promoting a nationalist agenda.

“Modi’s government is trying to use the idea of decolonisation as a way of diverting attention,” Shruti Kapila, professor of history and politics at the University of Cambridge, tells The Monocle Minute. “His government is under pressure for the first time in nine years and it is trying to gain an advantage in a cultural war for India.”

Image: Gucci

Fashion / London

Time-honoured traditions

This week, Gucci opened the doors of its new flagship shop on London’s Bond Street, which has double the floor space of its previous flagship and a refreshed design concept. The renovated boutique, formerly an art gallery, reflects the brand’s broader return to classic design: think restored columns, muted colour palettes and wood-panelled walls. There’s also a mezzanine dedicated to the new Gucci Valigeria travel collection (a homage to Guccio Gucci’s original luggage designs), a room showcasing pieces from the brand’s Florence archive and a VIP salon inspired by couture tradition.

Since the departure last year of long-time creative director Alessandro Michele, a committed maximalist, the company has been rethinking its strategy. Radical shifts in direction are hard to pull off because they require investment in new talent, retail concepts and collections – but the Kering-owned brand seems intent on forging a new path that is more closely linked to its heritage in classic tailoring and travel. The forthcoming debut show by Sabato De Sarno in Milan later this month will be a test of its potential success.

Image: Vincent Tullo/The Armory Show

Art / USA

Market reach

One of New York’s oldest and most prestigious art fairs, The Armory Show, opens tomorrow and runs until Sunday. It will be the fair’s first iteration since it was acquired by Frieze in July. It has marked the beginning of the autumn art season since 1994, with major galleries from around the world gathering in Manhattan to display the works of both new and established artists. Also known as the New York Art Fair, it was originally named after the Armory Show of 1913, the first modern art exhibition in the US.

This year, it will showcase more than 800 artists from 225 international galleries, representing some 35 countries. While the fair remains dedicated to its mission of facilitating contact between New York’s art scene and the rest of the world, its acquisition by the Frieze family alongside Expo Chicago attests to the London-based art platform’s ambition to establish itself as a powerful franchise in the US art market.

Culture / Greece

Turning the tide

The Hydra Book Club on the Greek island of the same name is a literary project launched by Josh Hickey that celebrates Hydra’s long tradition as a haven for writers. It opened last weekend for its third iteration and will run until the end of October, with a pop-up bookshop at the island’s Historical Archives Museum and a dedicated journal launched by Filip Niedenthal (formerly of Vogue Polska). Here, Monocle speaks to Hickey and Niedenthal about this year’s project.

Hydra already has a long-standing literary tradition. Is your project continuing this?
Josh Hickey: It has definitely played into that and we like to ask ourselves how we are supporting the literary scene here. Now that there is a bookshop and a journal, there are other places in which writers can express themselves. Our role is to give these people a foundation so that Hydra remains true to its nearly 100-year-old literary roots.

Tell us about the journal. It’s the first time that you have published one.
Filip Niedenthal: It’s definitely a lot heftier than we originally planned. We had so many amazing contributions from artists, writers and photographers from all over the world that it grew to be twice the estimated size. Some were our friends in Hydra and elsewhere, while others were people who we reached out to. It’s our Utopia-themed issue and a very personal project for us.

Why did you decide to hold the book club from September to October?
JH: Come September, many Athenians and collectors return to the island, adding to the population. It becomes easier to have a party, have a conversation, sit and read, to linger around the table. It’s a better literary environment.

For our full interview with Josh Hickey and Filip Niedenthal on Hydra Book Club, tune in to the latest episode of ‘The Stack’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: Manuel Nieberle

Monocle Radio / On Design

Meeting of minds

We look back at The Monocle Quality of Life Conference 2023. We hear from award-winning Mexican architect Manuel Cervantes, talk branding, typography and graphic design with Bergos bank’s Aurelia Rauch and enjoy a spin in Microlino’s compact new car with Merlin Ouboter.

Monocle Films / Media

Britain’s smallest radio station

Located in the northwestern corner of the Scottish Highlands, Gairloch is a coastal village of about 700 people that is known for its mountains, sea loch and rugged landscape. Monocle paid a visit to Two Lochs, reportedly Britain’s smallest commercial radio station, which is nestled on Gairloch’s shores, run by a handful of volunteers and has built a loyal fanbase of global listeners.


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