Turtle 1
Building a car in Africa

€ 29,50
  • Author(s):
    Melle Smets & Joost van Onna
  • Language:
  • Pages:
  • Size:
    17 x 23.5 cm.
  • ISBN:
  • Year:
  • Photography:
    Teun Vonk
  • Publisher:
    Paradox & Verlag Kettler


This car is not the product of a multinational company which develops software to hide its true emissions. Nor was it designed by lifestyle gurus, its futuristic looks intended to seduce customers – who no longer know how to change a tyre.

The majority of the world lives in a Do-It-Yourself environment. Intrigued by the functioning of these communal spaces, artist Melle Smets and sociologist Joost van Onna travelled to Suame Magazine (Ghana) where cars are disassembled and their parts traded. They collaborated with local artisans and organizations to create a truly African car in only 12 weeks: Turtle 1. The design grew out of analysis of the local circumstances, as well as the accessible infrastructure. The concept was based on flexibility: the car was constructed with parts that happened to be available.

Turtle 1 became the first Ghanaian car to be exported to the West. It toured motor shows, where it flanked the fully electric Tesla S. Early in 2015 Turtle 1 was shipped back to Ghana. Yet, expectations turned out to have diversified: whereas Smets and Van Onna opted for a small local production line, partner SMIDO had started dreaming of a large manufacturing plant.

Thus, despite all the efforts made to act differently Turtle 1 has tragically become a classic example of the pattern African-European projects have been a victim of in the past. The book reflects on this ambitious adventure which light-heartedly embraces major cultural themes.



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