There couldn’t have been a better setting to launch a book about Africa, than at the Skoto Gallery in Chelsea, where amid the unique art pieces that can only be found there and in Africa itself - a lovely gathering celebrated the literary achievements of a dynamic couple.
Supported by his wife, Diane Chehab, Epée Ellong set out to explore the deep meaning behind the common architectural themes throughout Africa. Their book, De La Case a La Villa (From Hut to Modern Home), investigates the evolution of African housing, through a dialogic lens between ‘us’ (modernity) and pre-colonial African architecture (tradition). The very evolution of architecture addresses the poignant societal shifts in African history. Despite the artificial barriers, however, the universality of architectural design speaks to the unity of humanity –Epée emphasizes the human as the center of the book.
Despite the many questions that are raised, however, Epée recognizes the relativism of the questions addressed: “I'm not an old man with all the answers; these are just questions left unanswered that our children may have answers to in the future.”
As architects themselves, Diane and Epée couldn’t be in a better position to explore such dynamic themes: they met while they were both students at Beaux Arts à Paris, later moving to Cameroon where they ran an architectural firm for many years. This exposure led them both to a deep analysis of African architecture, particularly focusing on the contradictory social and technical impact on the art.
Perhaps the most beautiful thing about the book is the team that created it – their mutual passion for the subject is evident, and only furthers their credibility as individuals with the knowledge and the heart to uncover questions of humanity through architecture.
Close friend of the couple, Donna Watson Haynes, emphasized the collaborative and empathetic nature of their success: “I admit, I was only half way listening when Diane's husband spoke and she translated. I was transfixed on her calm loving spirit standing next to her man, listening to his words and calmly translating – side by side – he had a personable, gracious pride when he talked... His words felt like outstretched hands; their book is touching the world.”
For more information on Diane's blog on African topics click here: www.AwayFromAfrica.com