‘I Wanted to Pay the Ultimate Homage’: Why One Artist Is Playing Toto’s ‘Africa’ on an Endless Loop in the Namib Desert
Namibia-born artist Max Siedentopf's desert art installation plays the '80s anthem on loop somewhere in the desert.
Anyone who ventures deep into Africa’s Namib desert, an arid expanse of sand dunes and gravel planes measuring over 31,000 square miles along the coasts of Angola, Namibia, and South Africa, may hear an unusual but familiar sound echoing in the dunes.
First a keyboard, then that unmistakable synth-kalimba. And then: “It’s gonna take a lot to take me away from you / There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do / I bless the rains down in Africa…”
Yes, it’s “Africa,” the beloved ’80s anthem by Toto. The artist Max Siedentopf has installed six speakers and a solar-powered MP3 player to do one thing and one thing only: play the song on an endless loop.
“Even though ‘Africa’ by Toto was released 1982 it is still very much present in today’s pop culture and frequently used for memes—even entire Reddit pages are dedicated to the song,” Siedentopf told artnet News.”I’ve listened to the song over 400 times now and I still cannot say what makes it so enduring. It just hits the right nerves.” (Indeed, the song actually saw a new wave of popularity in 2018, when the band Weezer released a hit cover version.)
Intrigued by the song’s continued popularity, Siedentopf “wanted to pay the song the ultimate homage and physically exhibit ‘Africa’ in Africa,” he said. “The Namibian desert, which is 55 million years old—the oldest desert in the world—seemed to be the perfect spot for this. Hopefully the song will play just as long.”
The artist, who now lives in London, grew up in Namibia, where the desert is a regular part of people’s lives. “The desert is mainly used recreationally, for the likes of dune boarding and quad biking,” Siedentopf said. “It’s such an incredible and inspiring place,” he said.
He installed the work, appropriately titled Toto Forever, guerrilla style. “It’s hard to give permission in a vast landscape like that,” Siedentopf said. “The installation should work as a treasure that only the most loyal Toto fans can find.” But would-be art pilgrims be warned: “I would advise taking a lot of water along. The Namib is as big as the Netherlands and Switzerland combined, so it might take a while to find!”
In the meantime, Siedentopf hopes the installation will withstand the elements. “Most parts were chosen to be as durable as possible, but I’m sure the harsh environment of the desert will devour the installation eventually,” Siedentopf admitted. He installed the work on December 28 and plans to check up on it next time he is in Namibia.
See more photos of Toto Forever below.
Follow artnet News on Facebook:
Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.