Cooler, cheaper, better – the microcar is just a more sensible mode of transport than the gas guzzling giants that roam our highways today. Most cars in the developed world have only one passenger – the driver. The average European weighs 70 kgs. A typical car weighs 1-2 tonnes. In other words, the average car weighs 10-20 times more than what it’s transporting. Now that’s just insane. And the reason for it? Well, the car is more than just a mode of transport, it is a status symbol. The car is a napoleon’s horse for men without self irony, who take themselves too seriously and need a big car to compliment their ego.
The South Ndebele People of Southern Africa have the amazing tradition of painting their houses with brightly coloured geometric designs. The custom started after the Ndebele moved from straw huts to mud-walled houses in the mid 1800s. The loss of the 1883 war with the neighbouring Boer settlers brought hardship and repression for the Ndbele. Their symbolic art is said to have taken form during this harsh period, as a subtle language of cultural resistance which went undetected by the Boers.
Esther Mahlangu has become world famous as a master of the Ndebele painting style. Since being discovered by a team of french culture and art researchers in the mid eighties, she has done commissioned work across the world, including an art car for BMW in 1991. More recently she has also decorated the new Fiat 500.
I really like Japanese illustrator Shusei Nagaoka’s artwork from the 70s and 80s. It’s full of neon glowing space ships in distant galaxies and shiny naked women encountering strange looking martians. Among his greatest achievements are his album art for bands such as Electric Light Orchestra and Earth Wind and Fire. It’s kitschy and over the top, but so much more exiting than the mostly boring album art (and music) of our era.
Retro designed cars have been in vogue for quite a while now, starting with the launch of the New Beetle back in the nineties. I rember seeing a concept design of the New Beetle in a car magazine as a child – a few years before it came into production, and I remember I thought it was very cool. Since then the whole auto industry have jumped on the retro trend, the New Mini and the New Fiat 500 perhaps being the most successful ones. But along the way I totally lost my interest in these remakes of the car classics – mainly because the originals are so much cooler than the remakes. Instead I would love to see more cars like the Nissan Figaro, which truly looks old, but fools you with it‘s modern engine and technical specifications. It was launched in 1989 and originally only sold in Japan. However, it has since become popular in the UK, imported second hand. As a London resident I enjoy coming across them on my walks and cycle rides around the city.