Cross-cultural design collaborations often bring forth distinctive results and Ikea’s latest partnership is no exception.
A few years ago, the Swedish home furnishing retailer joined forces with Design Indaba – a South Africa-based multi-faceted design platform – to learn more about the contemporary African design scene. Designers from five African nations – with backgrounds in fashion, sculpture, architecture and furniture design – teamed up with Ikea’s own in-house designers.
The outcome is a limited-edition collection of furniture, tableware and textiles that draws on modern lifestyles and family traditions. Among the designs are curved, slatted benches – paired with solid eucalyptus round tables – great for an evening of conversation and food.
The idea came from the Kenyan evening ritual, when friends often gather to chat, bringing their own chairs. The slightly curved design makes it easy to arrange a few benches together.
Designer Bibi Seck thought of the idea of a rocking chair while sitting in his mother’s garden in Dakar, Senegal. In Western Africa where he grew up, he shares that time is often used to just sit still and reflect on life.
“I imagine people sitting in this rocking chair, rocking and reflecting. I imagine my father who is in his 80s sitting in it, smoking his cigar; my sister-in-law with her newborn baby; my niece and nephews playing on it,” says Seck, who adds that the chair’s metal structure and weaving is something that he has been using a lot in his work in Senegal.
Meanwhile, the Overallt chair is an unassuming piece done in natural, untreated plywood “like a blank canvas.”
“I wanted to design a pleasant and functional object without using costly materials or sophisticated technology. This chair is made out of a sheet of plywood and a jigsaw, technically. No necessity for nails, glue or screws or any other complex fabrication process,” says designer and architect Issa Diabate.
The tableware featured in the collection includes stoneware bowls and jugs; and heat-resistant, glass and cork jars, oil jugs and carafes.
Influenced by the unique Kenyan style of dining outdoors where groups meet in huts, each outfitted with a charcoal burner, is the cast iron casserole. The cooking pot is multi-purpose and usable for cooking or baking, with the lid doubling as a skillet.
Great for the living room or bedroom are polypropylene and powder-coated steel baskets inspired by the ritual of hair braiding, a creation by fashion designer and artist Selly Raby Kane.
“It’s this shared moment when your head either ends up on a family member’s lap for hours and hours, or you lean back in a chair in a cool salon, listening to the latest Dakar and foreign pop,” she says.
Making a sustainable fashion statement is the Overallt tote, great for the beach or in the city. The shimmery woven strips of thread-like material are made out of waste material from crisp packaging production.
Lastly, colourful and ethnic-looking cushion covers, rugs, blankets and quilt covers are some of the textile offerings that complete the collection.