3 progressive African furniture brands that you need to know
Words by Elaine Okoye
Furniture design is another important part of design in which Africans are shining. From using reclaimed materials to sustainable practices, African designers are leading the charge when it comes to progressive furniture design.
1 Hamed Ouattara
Image by Hamed Ouattara
A Burkino Faso export, Hamed Ouattara makes unique homeware out of reclaimed metal scraps. He upcycles salvaged metal to transform waste into functional and beautiful works of art.
Born in Ouagadougou, Burkino Faso’s capital, in 1971, Hamed initially studied accounting before moving on to fulfill his creative needs with a course in fashion and then painting. He then trained in design at the prestigious ‘National Higher School of Industrial Design’ in Paris. Since then Hamed and his works have taken part in many collective and individual exhibitions the world over where people have marvelled over innovative and sustainable approach to design.
Speaking to Weendu Design about paying homage to cultural heritage and re-interpreting Burkina Faso’s metal-work culture, Hamed said, "Art has a role to play in the development of Africa and my work reflects this conviction."
Hamed breathes new life into this pieces with his recognisable signature and the way he transforms them, displaying his impressive craftsmanship. He achieves his look by shaping, hammering and repurposing old metal oil drums, available en masse all over Burkina Faso, and making use of their traditional patterning to create something refreshing, special and functional. More beautiful still, Hamed’s works aren’t perfect; his furniture often bears marks and scratches indicative of the upcycling process meaning that each piece is a true one of a kind.
Image by Mabeo
Mabeo was founded by Peter Mabeo in Botswana in 2006. After a decade of making commercial prices for customers in his native country, Mabeo decided to make steps towards building his own brand which would consist of designing products in a more meaningful way. Mabeo wanted his products to reflect his personal values and focus on sustainability, craftsmanship and culture.
Since starting Mabeo furniture, he was worked with local artisans to design unforgettable pieces out of wood and textiles. In this spirit of collaboration, he has also worked alongside highly- respected artists like Luca Nichetto, Patty Johnson and Patricia Urquiola.
Speaking to Pulse Ghana about the African essence of his pieces in a wider cultural context, Peter says, ‘’There is a uniqueness about the beauty of African material culture and rich artistic heritage, very much so. There is, however, a universality of craft, of objects made with great care and interest, regardless of origin. I do not like to define our work stylistically. If any aesthetic pattern is sensed, I see it as more of a result than a preconceived strategic effort at creating an identity. Independent of the fact that we work with international designers, the objects we make transcend geographic and cultural divisions."
Under Peter’s watchful eye, Mabeo has received international acclaim and is widely respected within the design world as a brand with a message and a purpose.
3 Yinka Ilori
Image by Yinka Ilori
Yinka Ilori is a London-based multi-disciplinary designer whose specialty is upcycling vintage furniture and transforming it into vibrant, modern statement pieces.
Inspired by traditional Nigerian fabrics and weaving methods, these influences are evident in Ilori’s work. His About Me section on his website states that Yinka is ‘’bringing Nigerian verbal traditions into playful conversation with contemporary design.’’
Having featured in Architectural Digest, Dezeen and collaborated with British music juggernaut, the Brits, Yinka Ilori is shedding light on his fascinating work with vintage pieces.
Yinka’s art not only calls to attention the growing culture of waste that is affecting the world but also calls for a story of hope and restoration. Yinka shows that pieces do not simply have one life and can continue to serve many functions and be transformed into newer, more useful works of art.
Speaking to Architectural Digest, Yinka admits, "The most interesting finds to me are on the streets, when you see a chair in a really vulnerable state. That's when I see another narrative for the chair."
Well, as he continues to infuse his British and Nigerian heritage whilst breathing new life into old objects, Yinka’s star rises. Garnering attention from the world of design, Yinka’s penchant for restoration has earned him a lot of respect and a reputation that quite certainly, precedes him.