Dezeen Magazine

Africa by Design

Eight products by African designers selected by Africa by Design

Africa by Design is a platform that promotes designers from sub-Saharan Africa. Founder Chrissa Amuah spoke to Dezeen about the programme in a live interview earlier this month and here presents a selection of products from the stable.

Amuah, who also runs London-based studio AMWA Designs, established Africa by Design to give the design talent in the region "the respect that it is due".

"What leads me naturally to the design of my heritage is that there's soul in it, there's life and it goes beyond surface level," she said. "I was doing research that I was coming across so many other incredible African designers that just didn't have the platform to showcase their work in a way that I've benefited from."

"That's where the idea of Africa by design was born: this idea of creating a platform that celebrates the best of African design talent and showcases it to the world in a way that hasn't been given the respect that it's due."

Africa by Design launched in 2017 with an exhibition at the Nubuke Foundation in Accra, which was co-curated by Wallpaper* editor-at-large Suzanne Trocmé.

"Africa can, with enough exposure, create an industry around design with such talents at the forefront," said Trocmé at the time.

Africa by Design now works with 35 designers from seven countries, organising exhibitions and helping creatives establish commercial networks. Here is a selection of designers and objects from the stable.

Africa by Design: Asanka coffee table by Chrissa Amuah

Asanka coffee table by Chrissa Amuah, Ghana

Chrissa Amuah was born and raised in London with a heritage that includes Ghana, Togo and Benin. She is founder and creative director of AMWA Designs. The studio creates homewares and products inspired by traditional Ghanaian Adinkra symbols, which are both decorative and symbolic.

The Asanka coffee table is topped with an asanka - a wide, shallow clay bowl traditionally used to grind and blend food in west Africa. The base is made of stacked wooden disks based on the form of the Adinkrahene, which is regarded as the most important of all the Adinkra symbols.

Africa by Design: Boraatii stool by Jomo Furniture

Boraatii stool by Jomo Furniture, Ethiopia

Based in Springfield, Virginia, Ethiopian-American designer Jomo Tariku of Jomo Furniture infuses his work with African art and culture. The height-adjustable Boraatii stool, which can also serve as a table, is inspired by headrests used in the Oromia region of Ethiopia, which are used to protect elaborate hairstyles at night. The word "boraati" means "tomorrow-you" in the Oromiffaa language.

Africa by Design: Sisi Eko floor lamp by Studio Lani

Sisi Eko floor lamp by Studio Lani, Nigeria

Raised in Nigeria, Lani Adeoye of Studio Lani has lived in Lagos, Montreal, Toronto, and New York, where she studied design at Parsons. In 2017, she won Wanted Design’s Launch Pad competition for furniture.

Sisi Eko is a steel floor lamp inspired by west African sculptures that celebrate the female form. The name derives from a Yoruba term meaning "Lagos lady".

Africa by Design: Àdùnní armchair by Ile Ila

Àdùnní armchair by Ile Ila, Nigeria

Nigerian architect Tosin Oshinowo is the founder of Lagos practice cmDesign Atelier. In 2017 she launched design brand lé Ilà, which means "house of lines' in Yoruba. The brand produces furniture and accessories that celebrate Yoruba culture, with all the products being hand-made in Lagos.

The Àdùnní ("daughter of the sweet one") armchair is described as "a celebration of African modernism". It is made of Nigeria teak and is upholstered in Yoruba asò-oké textiles.

Africa by Design: LM Stool by NMBello Studio

LM Stool by NMBello Studio, Nigeria

Industrial design studio NMBello Studio is based in central Lagos. Founded by Nifemi Marcus-Bello, it explores resourceful ways of creating contemporary objects using locally available skills and materials.

The LM Stool is a steel seat developed after examining the spare production capacity of a factory that makes steel cases for power generators. The design reduces the amount of steel needed to the minimum required to ensure stability and rigidity.

Africa by Design: Ile fruit bowl by Jade Folawiyo

Ile fruit bowl by Jade Folawiyo, Nigeria

Jade Folawiyo combines the cultures of Nigeria and London in her work. A graduate of the product design course at Central Saint Martins, she works with artisans to reinterpret traditional forms and techniques. The Ile fruit bowl combines a calabash, typically used as a drinking vessel, with a glazed earthenware base.

Africa by Design: Pedestal + Duniake by Ifeanyi Oganwu

Pedestal + Duniake by Ifeanyi Oganwu, Nigeria

Expand Design is a London design studio founded by Nigerian-born Ifeanyi Oganwu. It works on projects including furniture, jewellery and exhibition design.

The Pedestal + Duniake seat was designed to showcase fabrics by Toghal, a UK brand that produces African-inspired homewares. Produced as a limited edition, it features a moulded birch plywood base with an architectural form topped by two cylindrical bolsters, called duniake. These are upholstered in a printed fabric designed by Nairobi-born artist Phoebe Boswell.

Africa by Design: Tabouret Sandrine Noir by Jean Servais Somian

Tabouret Sandrine Noir by Jean Servais Somian, Ivory Coast 

Jean Servais Somian's studio Somian Design is based in Paris and Abidjan, the capital of Ivory Coast and the place of his birth. His work often involves repurposing used materials including metal, coconut wood and even used canoes. Tabouret Sandrine Noir is a stool shaped like a vase carved from a coconut-tree log.