The Turtle, DIY car made in Ghana, can be seen (and tried) at the Bel Ordinaire art centre in Pau as part of the exhibition “Disnovation”, focus of the Accès(s) festival.
For 14 years, Accès(s) in Pau has been exploring electronic culture all year long and especially during its festival of the same name that will take place this year from the 13th to the 16th of November. The focus of the 2014 edition is the “Disnovation” exhibition, topic chosen by the two commissioners invited by Accès(s), Bertrand Grimault and Nicolas Maigret (we talked about it during the art Hack Day in Paris). Behind this neologism, they are interested in artists and activists who understand the “innovation propaganda”, this so-called miracle solution towards economic recovery. The dialogue between dystopia (anticipation of disaster) and innovation offered by their programming questions the reckless headlong pursuit of progress, our technological fetishism or still the planned obsolescence of our technical world.
Disnovation of the turtle
In order to enlighten their critical postulate the exhibition places under the spotlight the Turtle, a car 100% made in Ghana, assembled by local craftsmen, seen as a challenge to the Western industrial logic. Parked in front of le Bel Ordinaire, a contemporary art centre in Pau, it is an extraordinary vehicle that one can observe from every angle, between a pick-up and a jeep, a car designed and adapted to local needs.
The story of the Turtle begins a few years back when the artist from Rotterdam Melle Smets and the sociologist Joost van Onna decided to follow the trace of waste from Western auto parts. They find themselves in a place called Suame Magazine in Ghana, where this waste is dealt with and sold by some 200,000 highly-specialised technicians in 12,000 informal workshops.
Not all cars end up in a scrap yard nor even as third hand cars in Africa. The two partners notice that certain spare parts serve totally unexpected purposes and that a large recycling economy, unknown in Europe, is developing over there. Smets and Ossa decide in March 2012 to search for a local partner to attempt to develop with them a 100% local car.
With Dutch support in the field of cooperation, the project becomes possible thanks to Smido the Suame Magazine Industrial Development Organisation. It will make a workshop available and a technical coordinator to overlook the manufacturing process and the linking with numerous craftsmen and mechanics who will tackle the project.
The Turtle project:
There follows a nice community story that will lead to the Smati Turtle 1, Smati for Suame Magazine Automatics Technical Institute, and turtle for the robust and solid characteristic the reptile brings to mind. The car will be built in three months in the multiple workshops of Suame Magazine and the Dutch will contribute to its development by organising narrative work to talk about the informal assembly line of the car.
Extract of video documentaries on the Turtle, with Master Frimpong:
It is in fact due to their documentary filmmaker profile that the idea took place: documenting a DIY manufacturing process and using this documentary work as a motor for the project. Here: build a car from A to Z on site and follow the process from workshop to workshop to understand the process and then tell the story. A story that will be widely broadcasted by local televisions and will bring the king Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II of Ghana to come and try the vehicle and support local “innovation”.
The Turtle, between twentieth century steam punk and disnovation, could have announced Nicolas Maigret and Bertrand Grimault. Because here, no electronics (too complicated to maintain), but a simple motor and a robust body for a modular pick-up car inspired of the 1970s Buafo that can carry heavy loads or many people or spread out into a stall for markets.
The Turtle car, simplicity lesson:
Once the car was built in early 2013, the Turtle went on a promotional tour of Europe to stimulate cooperation in the field of professional training. Because the two Dutch do intend to continue the adventure with their new friends and build a Turtle 2 in Suame Magazine.
The Turtle method is still far from complying with the European standards of circulation…And this is also what comes out of its exhibition in Pau. The car cannot run in the urban area of Pau, just about go around the parking lot where it is exhibited. It was in the art centre, through numerous sketches, videos, technical drawings, witness statements and media impact, that we got acquainted with the project, far from the frenzy of the Paris Motor Show that is taking place at the moment in Paris (October 4th to 19th). Enough to be nostalgic of the finest hours of the prototype automobile pioneers before the development of mass production specific to industrial capitalism, Fordism.
Accès(s) Festival #14, “Disnovation, a critical exploration of mechanisms and innovation rhetoric”, exhibition from 8/10 to 6/12/14, festival in Pau from 13 to 16/11