Five of the Most Creative African Furniture Designers

Five of the Most Creative African Furniture Designers

Posted in Design Home Décor

In today’s world, design represents more than the creation of industrially manufactured products. It allows shaping technical processes, social interactions, and urban environments while blurring the lines with craft and fine art. This is even more true in Africa where the young generation of designers is perceiving their discipline as a tool for a new identity and hence a new future.

Furniture designers play a key role in the conception of everyday objects and their interaction with the living space. They are questioning our perception of Africa through everyday objects and attempting to solve problems and transcend stereotypes with their creative work. They use materials that surround us, whether natural or artificial, to shape an optimistic cultural identity.

Bibi Seck

Nationality: France/Senegal
Studio: Birsel+Seck
Highlight: Taboo

Born in Paris and raised between London, Paris and Senegal, Bibi Seck is a Senegalese designer and co-founder of the award-winning design studio, Birsel+Seck. Today, he splits his time between New York and Dakar, designing products and spaces. Seck has design experience that ranges from car interiors to watches, but his approach is always the same: he places the user’s needs at the centre. The Taboo furniture collection is inspired by the daily life of West African people who sit together around a low table to talk and drink tea. Seck created the stools and tables with a Senegalese company that manufactures recycled plastic tanks and cisterns as its core business. The items are weatherproof, extremely durable and flexible in use.

Taboo by Bibi Seck

Cheick Diallo

Nationality: Mali
Studio: Diallo Design
Highlight: Sansa

Born in Bamako, Mali and trained as an architect and designer in Paris, France, Cheick Diallo’s studio is based in his hometown. Here he manages design projects, which speak to a local making tradition of using discarded materials and working mostly by hand. Diallo works with a team of artisans to produce furniture and objects of impeccable finish that play ambiguously with the notion of luxury. With the Sansa armchair, the designer faced many constraints, acquiring and processing the required materials with great effort, and developing business skills that enabled him to make the chair a reality. Its main component is a wire traditionally used in the fishing industry. Diallo is not the first to use this material in innovative ways, and he admits to being inspired by a long tradition of recycle of the wire for simple objects.

Sansa by Cheick Diallo

Yinka Ilori

Nationality: United Kingdom/Nigeria
Studio: Yinka Ilori
Highlight: Parable Chair

Yinka Ilori is a London-based Nigerian designer who specialises in upcycled vintage furniture inspired by Nigerian parables and fabrics from Africa. Each piece of furniture tells a story inspired by the people who would use them; each piece is created from reused materials or found objects. Ilori’s furniture takes on new meanings depending on how it is used or positioned. Throughout his collections, his work also tells the intimate living room stories of social class, identity, and sexuality. For instance, the installation If Chairs Could Talk is inspired by the creative resilience of immigrants and the dreams and frustrations of the residents in London. Ilori is interested in playing with the relationship between function and form and his work sits between traditional divisions of contemporary art and design.

Flower Bomb by Yinka Ilori

Naeem Biviji

Nationality: Kenya
Studio: Studio Propolis
Highlight: Hide Chair

Naeem Biviji and Bethan Rayner are the couple behind the Nairobi-based design company, Studio Propolis. Formally trained as architects with plenty of experience in furniture making, they specialise in made-to-order, handcrafted furniture. Biviji and his wife have worked on a variety of projects involving the design of small buildings and spaces, as well as manufacturing pieces of furniture that make up part of an on-going collection. These include the Hidechair, a wood-framed easy chair made from African woods and indigenous Kenyan leather. The chair’s trim, mid-century modern design recalls the simple utilitarian lines of the furniture made by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. Unlike Aalto, Biviji and Rayner are reluctant to work on large-scale architectural projects just yet. Working in an under-resourced environment, they choose to design products that have a human quality, with a sense of scale and tactile appeal.

Hide Chair by Studio Propolis

Jomo Tariku

Nationality: United States/Ethiopia
Studio: Jomo Furniture
Highlight: Birth Chair II

Jomo Tariku is a Kenya-born, Ethiopia-raised, and Washington-based industrial designer who develops furniture inspired by his African roots. His furniture infuses African art and culture into contemporary designs such as tables, chairs, and stools to offer an alternative to current mainstream styles. With the Birth Chair II, Tariku redesigned the birthing chair, which gets its singular shape from the fact that it was normally used to give support to mothers during childbirth. Unlike commonly found birthing chairs, where the seat section goes through a slot in the backrest, he decided to reverse the connection between the backrest and the seat. Thus, he created a modular chair with an easily swappable backrest that can be switched either by flipping it or by inserting an alternate backrest with a new design.

Birth Chair II by Jomo Tariku


Posted in DesignHome Décor  |  November 18, 2017