Monthly Archives: May 2010

Mud Structures/ Cultural Sustainability

Too often when people in the West think of African architecture, they perceive nothing more than a mud hut – a primitive vernacular remembered from an old Tarzan movie.  Why this ignorance to the richness of West African buildings?  Perhaps it is because the great dynastic civilizations of the region were already in decline when the European colonizers first exposed these cultures to the West.  Being built of mud, many older buildings had already been lost.  Perhaps the buildings were too “strange” to be appreciated by outsiders.

In fact these buildings are neither historic monuments in the classic sense nor as culturally remote as they may initially appear.  They share many qualities – such as sustainability, sculptural form, and community participation in their conception.  Though part of long traditions and ancient cultures, they are, at the same time, contemporary structures serving a current purpose.

In the wonderful pictorial “Butabu Adobe Architecture,”  James Morris takes a journey through parts of West Africa to explore the beauty and utility of these structures.

In “Adobe, Building and Living with Earth” by David Larkin and Orlando Romero, we see the African influence in the adobe building in the southwest of the United States transported by the Spaniards who embraced the culture of the Moors.


A Rib is not a Rib

The universal meal we never have enough of is barbeque ribs.

Here is an interesting recipe by Marcus Samulesson that adds a unique African perspective with special sauces and corn bread. Perhaps something different for Memorial Day. Enjoy. this recipe is from Marcus Samuelsson’s “The Soul of a New Cuisine.”

Take a Seat

“I don’t have any interest in design if it is only to remake that which already exists”. One look at his work and you can understand what inspires Ceick Diallo.

The colors, shapes, and textures of his furniture echo cultural essences that make a powerful connection to contemporary African-inspired home fashion. As a member of Design Africa/ca he joins a list of African designers who are forging a new and exciting interpretation of the culture.

Organized Eclecticism – Express Yourself

Moving away from out-of-the-box interior design solutions is always more difficult to say than do. We are naturally driven to the structure we are familiar with, but what we really want are rooms that reflect our own personal styles and memories.

Marianne Fassler, a well known South African fashion designer, bases her eclecticism on various  elements which bring an African-inspired touch.  Untraditional western decorative components give these a warm and lived-in feeling.

Using fundamental furniture pieces of any style, new or refurbished, combined with the cultural esthetic important to you, make the space reflect who you are and how you want others to see you.

Photos from the book “Maximalist Interiors,” by Encarna Castillo.

Rhythm and Hues

Few in the West know that the West African country of Mali is home to more fiber artists and designers than most other countries in the world.

Examples of Mali’s extraordinary legacy of textile arts and complex graphic statements were recently presented at the Museum of Craft and Folk Art in San Francisco. The exhibit gave long overdue recognition to contemporary Malian fabric artisans as a major form of the aesthetic of Mali.

The exhibition also featured other forms of traditional art and craft including wooden puppets and life-sized masked and costumed marionettes. The energy exhibited by these contemporary artisans sheds a new light on a whole world of application to home fashion, available to those who are bold and seek the unique.

ethniciti Tablescapes

As part of an exhibition on African-inspired design at the King Arts Complex in Columbus, Ohio, we crated a series of tabletop vignettes.  The fusion of crystal, French amber, and silver settings gave us a chance to create a truly high-style African-inspired dining experience.

The Power of Indigo: Aboubakar Fofana

There are few artisans who can work with a single hue and bring such power and freshness to the creation of African textiles.  Indigo, a color not only with cultural meaning but always in fashion, allows us to only imagine how we can us it as we look to refresh our personal living spaces.

The New York Times article, “From France and Mali, Shades of Indigo,” explores Aboubakar Fofana ‘s design philosophies and how the color indigo inspires him. His works can be seen at ABC Carpet & Home, 888 Broadway.