The world’s largest furniture and homeware store, Ikea, has collaborated with some of the best designers from seven African countries to curate its first African collection in what is described as an effort to “democratize design.”
Ikea says it hopes to tap into the “creative explosion” happening across the continent.
Designers from South Africa, Kenya, Senegal, Egypt, Angola, Ivory Coast and Rwanda are in a collaboration based around modern rituals and the importance they play in the home, PSFK reported.
All are tasked with re-imagining Africa’s urban spaces in cities as diverse as Cairo and Luanda.
This will be Ikea’s first-ever all-African collection, according to Bizcommunity.
“The creative explosion which is taking place in several cities around Africa right now is something Ikea is curious about,” said Marcus Engman, design manager at Ikea. “We want to learn from this and spread it to the rest of the world. Working together with these designers and creatives gives us the opportunity to do so.”
All designers collaborating on the collection met initially at Ikea’s Democratic Design Center in Älmhult, Sweden, in 2016, according to Quartz. They’ll all meet up again March 1-3 at the Design Indaba Conference of Creativity in Cape Town to bring together their ideas.
Ikea partnered with Cape Town-based Design Indaba to produce its first collection made completely by African designers. The collaboration will include “pan-continental” designers, architects and other creatives, Dezeen reported.
“It’s affirming for the world’s biggest furniture and homeware store to partner with Design Indaba to curate their first African collection,” said Ravi Naidoo, founder of Design Indaba. “They look towards democratizing design, and are happy to be infiltrated by external ideas. Now, it will be also inspired by urban Africa, and our intrepid pan-continental group of reformers, thinkers, makers and activists.”
The furniture and home ware collection will focus on “modern rituals and the importance they play in the home,” according to Naidoo.
These are some of the designers who are part of the collaboration:
- Bethan Rayner and Naeem Biviji from Nairobi, who specialize in made-to-order, handcrafted furniture.
- Designers Ayse Birsel and Bibi Seck from Senegal.
- Architect Christian Benimana from Rwanda.
- Designer Hanna Dalrot
- Hend Riad and Mariam Hazem.
- Architect Issa Diabaté from Côte d’Ivoire.
- Johanna Jelenik, who has worked for IKEA since 2002, will participate. Other collaborators include Kevin Gouriou, Laduma Ngxokolo from South Africa, Mikael Axelsson, Paula Nascimento, Renee Rossouw, Selly Raby Kane from Senegal and Sindiso Khumalo.
Judging from the designers’ CVs, the range is bound to go beyond just covering an ottoman in colorful African wax print textiles, Quartz reported. It’s being seen as an opportunity to experiment with what exactly “African design” means in 2017. Touristy flea markets from Nairobi to Johannesburg have begun to offer the same beaded jewelry and generic wax print handbags as “African” designs, a lazy interpretation of the continent’s unique design aesthetic.
The collection will launch in 2019, but probably won’t be accessible in the African cities that have inspired it. Ikea’s only African outlets are in Morocco and Egypt but the company says it is constantly evaluating new markets, according to Quartz.
Meanwhile, entrepreneurial African designers are filling the gap, such as Ciiru Waweru, whose Nairobi-based FunKidz has been described as an Ikea for Africa with locally designed and manufactured furniture.
Ikea designs and sells ready-to-assemble furniture such as beds, dressers, wall units, appliances and home accessories. It has been the world’s largest furniture retailer since at least 2008. Its founder is Ingvar Kamprad, 90.
Forbes ranked the Ikea founder as the world’s fifth richest billionaire in 2009 with a net worth of $22 billion:
Kamprad has historically shown little interest in the trappings of wealth. He reportedly prefers to fly economy and for more than two decades drove a Volvo until he was convinced it was no longer safe.
The company’s name is an acronym of his initials, Elmtaryd (the farm where he grew up), and Agunnaryd (his hometown in Småland, southern Sweden). The company is known for modern architectural designs.
Senegalese fashion designer Selly Raby Kane is one of the African designers in the Ikea-Design Indaba collaboration. Photo: Omar Victor