Friday 25th May was AFRICA DAY, and in the spirit of full disclosure I wasn’t aware that this was even a thing so for those of you who are unfortunately not as informed as I was here’s what this amazing day is all about:
“Africa Day commemorates the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (now known as the African Union) on this day, 25 May, in 1963. It aims to celebrate African unity with each year the Day has a different theme.”
This year’s theme is African Union Agenda 2063 and OAC together with the partners have decided to adopt this theme “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena.” In order to pay homage to this theme I decided to do so by choosing 5 AFRICAN FURNITURE AND DECOR DESIGNERS, based not only in Africa but in the Diaspora, to show how design and African designers play a strong role in creating an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena.
EAST AFRICA (KENYA): MADOIDO
I discovered MADOIDO (meaning ‘swag’ or ‘embellishment.’ in Swahili) on Instagram and I was not only wowed by their fun and vibrant pieces but also by the fact that they were founded by husband and wife duo, Liz and Paul Ndambuki, as newlyweds. Let the record show that I am an unapologetic romantic so when I found out that Madoido was born from the brilliant idea the couple had to to seek start up capital from family and friends to launch a new company rather than requesting a tradition dowry I fell completely in love with Madoido .
Their intention was to start a furniture line that would marry their love of African design and economic empowerment and it is safe to say they have achieved just that.
“We seek to create high quality and funky handmade furniture while working to promote sustainable livelihoods in Kenya. All of our products are handmade in Nairobi and inspired by Africa. We use locally available materials to support the Kenyan market and hire local craftsmen to bring our designs to life through a highly collaborative approach. Our designs feature a variety of local wood types as well as African textiles including wax print (kitenge & kanga) from East Africa and hand-woven textiles like bogolan, indigo and kente from West Africa. We believe that providing sustainable employment is the best way to empower Kenya.”
WEST AFRICA (NIGERIA): ILE ILA
Do you guys know about Nigerian highlife singer/songwriter Adekunle Gold? You don’t, well you should because he is hands down one of Africa’s greatest musicians. What does this have to do with a furniture company, you ask? Well, I discovered Ile Ila when I saw Adekunle featured in their furniture collection print advert and I instantly fell in love.
“As we formally launch the furniture-line, we are very honoured that Adekunle Gold, who is a pioneer in celebrating ‘African culture’ in an ‘Urban context’ is our Muse, collectively showing what can be achieved with the diversity of our design aesthetic and celebration of culture.”
Founded by Architect turned product designer Tosin Oshinowo in 2017, Ilé Ilà (meaning “House of Lines”) is a lifestyle furniture-line designed and hand-made in Lagos, Nigeria that celebrates her native Yoruba culture.
“We design period-conscious furniture with a contemporary African content, hand-made with love, in Lagos Nigeria.”
Their furniture design style is influenced by both the “Golden age of design”, the post-war modern movement that was between 1935 to 1975, and Tosin’s approach to architectural design – minimalist, clean and culture-rich. You’d think that this would result in boring and stiff pieces, but that couldn’t be further from the truth as their chairs, with their West African Fabrics and Hard Woods, are fun, vibrant and definitely the perfect addition to any space. Take a look for yourselves:
SOUTH AFRICA: THE URBANATIVE
The Urbanative, Pretoria based furniture and product design company, was founded by former mining engineer Mpho Vackier who shifted her passion when she found fulfilment as a culturally-inspired furniture and product designer.
“We are a contemporary African furniture and product design company in South Africa. Our products are defined and differentiated by the juxtaposition of abstracted ethnic cultural graphics and motifs with the functionality and looking feel of classical European midcentury and bauhaus furniture silhouettes.With a firm belief in the idea and the benefits of collaborative working relationships we work with a range of talented multidisciplinary professionals to offer inspired and imaginative and multifunctional design solutions.”
I can easily spot an Urbanative piece from a mile away, not only because of their distinct ‘bauhaus meets African geometry’ feel but also their exceptional quality. What I love most about their pieces is that the “African touch” in them isn’t the cliche prints and shapes we’ve been bombarded with but are refreshingly a cleaner more evolved version. Ones that stay true to a modern Africa that has evolved due to interaction with numerous cultures.
I love all their pieces but highest on my wish list is the breathtaking Buhle console made from Timber with a Steel frame. Check it out below, the fourth image, and tell me what you think. Do you agree with me that it is to die for or do you have another preference?
DIASPORA (USA + UGANDA): XNASOZI
I discovered Xnasozi when a friend of mine sent me their online catalogue because the pieces style made him think of me. He had undoubtedly hit the nail on the head because all of their pieces are pieces I would have loved to design myself.
Xnasozi, pronounced ‘nə/sō/zē’, was founded by Nasozi Kakembo who is a Washington DC native with Ugandan roots. Her company’s name derives from her very own, which is a Ugandan name meaning something to look up to in praise of.
“We are the intersection of classic and modern, East and West, innovative and subdued. We express our ethos in how we adorn our sacred spaces, whether those be our homes, our workspaces, or elsewhere. Traditional and timeworn textiles and techniques are the foundation of all of our collections, and from there, we modify the applications and functions to suit a modern and borderless lifestyle.”
Although her work is primarily made in the U.S., Xnasozi also carry a small collection of Fair Trade goods from Uganda that is designed in collaboration with artisans there. The style of her pieces are as a result of her extensive international experience, from her Ugandan and American heritage to her studies in art history, architecture, and eventually human rights that landed her in the far reaches of the world.
As much as they are inspired by various cultures it is quite evident that they have a stronger African influence, take a look at what I mean.
DIASPORA (UK + GHANA): AMWA DESIGNS
In March I was part of a panel speaking on THE MAGIC OF SOURCING, together with the amazing NANA SPIO GARBRAH (Creative Director Blueprint Africa from Tunis) and CHRISSA AMUAH (the creative director of Africa by Designand AMWA Designs) during the first ever THE PAN-AFRICA INTERIOR DESIGN VIRTUAL SUMMIT.
Don’t tell Chrissa but I have been low-key stalking her, from 2014 when she established AMWA DESIGNS, so it was such an honour to be part of the panel with her. Although born and raised in London, the textile designer’s heritage stems from Ghana, and thus her company creates handmade textiles and print designs for the home that are inspired by the Adinkra symbols and proverbs of the West African country that serve a decorative function, but also convey traditional wisdoms and adages.
“Our designs are underpinned by the beauty and integrity in great craftsmanship. It is built on the principle that our homes and private spaces should be enveloped with beautiful furnishings that evoke powerful and positive thoughts within us. AMWA Designs speaks to a contemporary generation whose lifestyle is forward thinking. If our beings are nurtured in environments filled with wisdoms that promote positivity, upon exiting our homes and stepping out into the world every day – by the power of symbolic osmosis – we all share the opportunity to walk each step with intended harmony”.
So there you have it, five AFRICAN FURNITURE AND DECOR DESIGNERS that I have chosen to celebrate in the spirit of Africa Day. What do you think about them and do you have a favourite, whether from this selection or not. I’d love to know more about various African designers residing on the continent or in the diaspora so do share in the COMMENT SECTION below.
If you enjoyed learning a bit about these African designers and you wouldn’t want to miss out on any more posts like these, then be sure to SUBSCRIBE below.
Till next time be sure to Be Inspired…Be you!