Opening the Doors of Design


Also contributing to the biennale is Chrissa Amuah, a British-Ghanaian textiles designer who is partnering with Alice Asafu-Adjaye, an architect based in Accra, Ghana, on an installation that will address Ghana’s long colonial relationship with Britain and Denmark. Ms. Amuah, whose London studio is called AMWA Designs, incorporates traditional Ghanaian symbols known as adinkra into her textiles, including a collection she created for Bernhardt Design that will debut next year.

Ms. Amuah is equally well known as the founder of Africa By Design, a three-year-old online platform and series of roving exhibitions that showcases the work of sub-Saharan designers, both on the continent and living abroad. With a roster of nearly 40 designers from several countries, Africa By Design was born out of a recognition that there are “so many African designers whose work is incredible but they just don’t have a platform to show and promote it,” said Ms. Amuah. “They know their craft, but they wouldn’t know how to necessarily communicate with a Western market.

For Ms. Amuah, shining a spotlight on design talent across Africa can also help debunk stereotypes. “When we took Africa by Design to Dubai,” she recalled, “I remember one Emirati man walked in and said, ‘Oh, this is a great exhibition. But you know what’s missing? A lion skin.’ His instinctive perception of Africa and design was, you know, an animal skin.”

Patrizia Moroso, the creative director of the Italian furnishings house Moroso, noted that global interest in African art has taken off and believes design will follow. “When creativity starts blowing, art is the flag that you see before other things,” said Ms. Moroso, who is married to a Senegalese artist, Abdou Salam Gaye. “Design was not so important in another Africa focused on other issues. But now it is starting to be important, because there is a new consciousness around creative potential and quality of life in Africa.”

Ms. Moroso, who said that she has always sought out designers with different backgrounds and nationalities, lamented that “it’s not easy to find a lot of designers coming from Africa.” But she conceded that, as an industry, “we probably have to do more, to develop better ways of scouting new talent.”



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