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Jomo Tariku’s Elegant Nyala Chair Takes Inspiration from Ethiopian Wildlife

Dec. 27, 2018

Developed as a concept piece for inclusion at the Salone Del Mobile “Africa and Latin America Rising Design” exhibition, the handcrafted Nyala Chair uses forms found in the Bale region of Ethiopia.

Raised in Ethiopia where he saw a range of eclectic art, souvenirs and furniture his father collected from Africa and beyond, Jomo Tariku has used his experiences as an Ethiopian-American artist and industrial designer to create his pieces. By using the continent’s vast diversity as inspiration, Tariku’s work tells stories of his own experience of the artifacts, colors, landscape, wildlife, hairstyles, and cultures found across the 54 countries and 1.216 billion occupants who call Africa “home.”

Tariku corresponded with i+s to give us a look at the inspiration and craftsmanship behind his Nyala Chair.

When was the Nyala Chair developed?
It was developed in January 2018 as a concept for an invitation to participate at the Salone Del Mobile’s “AFRICA & LATIN AMERICA Rising Design / Design Emergente” invitation. Prior to that it was just one of hundreds concepts I had sketched, or 3D modeled.

How did the name come about?
The chair was named after the male mountain Nyala antelope.

Who designed the Nyala Chair?
Chair was designed by myself.

What was the inspiration behind the design?
In all my designs my inspiration comes from the continent of Africa. After collecting a series of photographs, I settled on the adult male Mountain Nyala which has long swirly majestic horn and is found in the Bale region of Ethiopia.

What was the biggest hurdle in bringing the Nyala Chair to life?
I would say it was the organic shape of the armrest which was easier to sketch and model than trying to build it. Fortunately, I met a master craftsman who loved the chair design as much as I did who poured skills into making it. Other than the design and the quality of work is what is making it stand out from the crowd.

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How was the response when it was launched?
The feedback has been great and continues to catch the eye of potential collectors and buyers. An Italian luxury brand saw it on a local Milan daily paper during Salone Del Mobile’s 2018 and purchased the first one and we are working on having some of my other designs including the Nyala chair to be part of their catalog.  The interest has gone past Italy to others here in the US as well as Nigeria, UK and South Africa.

What’s something people don’t know about the Nyala Chair?
The Nyala chair is hand carved by a master craftsman in Virginia.

What is on the horizon for your design studio?
My participation in the various international shows (Dubai, Venice, Lagos) has generated positive feedback and a great reaction for my African themed furniture products. It has also provided me an opportunity for potential retailers to promote or carry my contemporary African furniture.  In 2018, I moved my furniture concepts to production. My first catalogue will be out in January 2019 and it will include my new designs. The catalogue release will be followed by attendance in international contemporary design shows to promote my work as well as African design.

About the Author

Kadie Yale | Former Editor-in-Chief

Kadie Yale holds a BA in Industrial Design from San Francisco State University and a MA in Decorative Art History and Theory from Parsons the New School. In her role as editor-in-chief from 2015-2018, she led the interiors+sources team in creating relevant content that touches on sustainability, universal design, science, and the role of design in society.

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