Melle Smets, Joost van Onna


softcover with flaps17 x 23.5288 pp.English
ISBN 97890818876632016

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.


  • Melle Smets (1975) is active as a researcher, artist and critic, and is specialized in issues related to public space. Smets visualizes traces from the past and present to explore the relationship between man and his environment. He works as a consultant, lecturer and speaker at universities in the Netherlands. His aim is to create a broad public awareness to reflect on the contemporary landscape. After finishing a study Art and Public Space (OK 5) at the art academy in Arnhem in 1999, he co-founded the artists collective GANG. The group organized city dwelling tours, exhibitions for airports, harbours and highways. In 2005 he moved to Rotterdam where he set up shop. He founded a Dutch Highway museum, wrote a book about his experiences living in a car for 30 days and participated in a number of landart projects.

    Joost van Onna (b. 1976) studied social psychology and criminology. He is currently working on his PhD thesis (at the VU University of Amsterdam) about factors contributing to (non-)compliance to laws. Through his work, thesis and his long-term stay in South America, he is fascinated by the functioning and strength of informal self-regulating (economic) systems.

  • Editor(s):Warna Oosterbaan, Bas Vroege
    Photography:Melle Smets, Teun Vonk
  • Edition:1st
    Publisher(s):Ydoc / Paradox, Kettler Verlag