Much of the beauty and mystery of African materials and forms derives from curious ways that its patterns are regulated, from the largely inaccessible but very strict logic that controls the way patterns are generated, how they interact and especially, how they communicate with one another and with the social actors that use them. Rhythmic unfolding and the rules that govern improvisation, even if unexpressed in the works themselves, are salient features that determine how new actors and new information are to be integrated into an existing system. Since improvisation and especially the effect of "coolness" are primary values, aesthetic and formal practice is essentially geared more than anything else to openness, flexibility and continual transformation. Indeed, the aesthetics of plasticity and modification are its goals, and the key feature that is sought, or listened for, in the works.
Sanford Kwinter is a New York-based writer, widely-known architectural theorist, and co-founder of the influential Zone Books publishers. Kwinter currently serves as Professor of Theory and Criticism at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Kwinter earned his PhD in comparative literature from Columbia University. Over the past twenty years, his publications have pioneered new ideas in art, architecture, science and the humanities. He has written widely on philosophical issues of design, architecture, and urbanism, and was a member of the series of conferences and publications convened by ANY (magazine) between 1991 and 2000.