M’Afrique by Moroso

published in: Design By Yatzer, 19 June 2009

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There is an image, an idea of Africa that lives deep in human imagination. Its form often transcends the power of the word and its profile lies under layers of conscious retrieval. It is alive within each one of us on a primordial level, inexplicable yet undeniable. Maya Angelou

the making of Madame Dakar by Bibi Seck and Ayse Birse

The reasons behind a project centred around Africa are explained to us by Patrizia Moroso, who devised the event and asked Stephen Burks to design the installation in Moroso’s Milan showroom in Via Pontaccio:

multifaceted, modern Africa deserves to be known and sustained for the originality of the creative languages with which it enriches global culture. The African continent is extraordinarily rich in creativity, materials and ideas that are sources of inspiration and nourishment for us. When applied to design, they engender products which exude tradition and modernity, innovation and history, form and beauty. I think there is so much of Africa and in this event my intent was to showcase the creativity of a few of the great artists and personalities of contemporary African culture. Going beyond the stereotypes that present Africa as a tragic or, at best, exotic experience, we want to highlight some aspects of contemporary African culture, which is in effect comparable to global culture. Looking at Africa through the eyes of contemporary art, photography, architecture and design is perhaps the most appropriate way of approaching this vast, powerful continent, so creatively rich and diverse that today it is still one of western modernity’s greatest sources of inspiration”. Patrizia Moroso

Shadowy collection by Tord Boontje

The event presented a few examples of Africa’s power and beauty in the work of some of its leading artists.
Fathi Hassan, who expresses symbolism in various forms through the written word: a tray is like an eternal container that holds and keeps the word. Nubian calligraphy is unusual in that it is composed of symbols, like the leaves of the desert or a nomad’s baggage. Another unmissable installation features the scarab beetles of ancient Egypt which eat precious dust to become immortal.
Soly Cissé, on the other hand, expresses the contrasts of African culture in his work: modernity contrasts with conservatism, the amazing cultural diversities which made the continent artistically rich yet, at the same time, burdened it with a controversial and in some ways mysterious history. His sticky tape-covered chair is a mystic object which belongs to both the past and the present.

Shadowy collection by Tord Boontje

The exhibition rounded off with the beautiful photos of Mandémory, a self-taught photographer who rejects the concept of an ethnographic-realist characterisation of Africa and prefers suggestions, details and portraits in which colour and light intertwine and generate energy.
Then there is David Adjaye, one of the best-known, widely acclaimed architects on the world scene and also a keen photographer. For M’Afrique he presented his photographic documentation of five African cities (Dakar, Addis Abeba, Harare, Pretoria, Bamako), part of a bigger, highly successful exhibition held at Harvard in 2007. His photos are part of a study of new urban planning models and were taken in order to show the key characteristics of the urban – and, if possible, suburban – layout, without the ambition of providing an exhaustive photo study of each city.
David Adjaye was recently appointed by Moroso to design its new main office building in its time-honoured Udine headquarters.

bench by Patricia Urquiola

Madame Dakar by Bibi Seck and Ayse Birse


Products made in Africa by local craftspeople:
Last year Moroso started using a hand-weaving technique employing the plastic threads traditionally used for making fish nets. This created the success of Tord Boontje’s Shadowy collection, which we present today in its entirety: chairs, armchairs, loungers and a stool/table in light, light-hearted shapes.
The same technique is now used by Bibi Seck and Ayse Birsel who created a wide range of attractive, softly rounded products, such as Madame Dakar, a enormous armchair as enveloping as a hammock.
Then there’s Patricia Urquiola’s “bench” that sits on the sand like a tree trunk, accompanied by a smaller, single-seat twin and by a low table. Stephen Burks’s creations are equally beautiful: a chair, an armchair and a range of pouffes in various sizes.

Binta by Philippe Bestenaider

Binta by Philippe Bestenaider


New products inspired by Africa:
By Philippe Bestenaider, an armchair, Binta; a sculptural form with the solid, heavy look of the baobab rooted to the ground. Binta is upholstered in multicolour patchwork wax prints. Plus the Bogolan Pouffe, made of a very distinctive material – a tyre recycling by-product – printed with decorative motifs.
Patricia Urquiola designed Rift, a range of contract seating inspired by a rift valley. The seating is composed of various, superjacent layers which give the impression of division.

Bogola pouffes by Philippe Bestenaider

Classic products reinterpreted in an African version:
On this occasion, some of Moroso’s iconic designs are upholstered in African fabrics: Ron Arad’s Victoria & Albert and Do-lo-rez, Patricia Urquiola’s Antibodi, Fjord, Bohemien and Lowland; Princess by Nipa Doshi & Jonathan Levien, and Tokujin’s splendid Bouquet chairs.

Do-lo-rez by Ron Arad

Do-lo-rez by Ron Arad

Another special aspect of African society is its fabrics, which are not simply textiles to buy and sell or to use for clothes. Their decorative motifs convey a kind of text which embodies the people’s social and religious identity. There was no written word in ancient African society and communication was solely oral, therefore each sign conveyed a meaning.
The greatest number of this kind of textiles is designed and made in Senegal. Its strategic geographic position, between the desert, the savannah and the ocean, made the country one of Africa’s main trading bases, transforming it into a rich commercial and cultural workshop. A cross-fertilised universe of styles in which Western-style clothing, most appreciated in urban areas, mixes with traditional ethnic fabrics and costumes.
The fabric African women choose for their typical costume, the boubou, is very important because its richness indicates the family’s social status. Nowadays, the classic fabrics, called pagne, are usually made and printed on an industrial basis. The Dutch firm, VLISCO, leads this particular market; in fact its vast collection of African prints was used for many of the Moroso collection designs.
Other visually stunning fabrics are those designed and made by the Senegalese textile artist Aissa Dione, a symbol of African women’s successful creativity and managerial skills. She applies her pictorial talent to the creation of cotton and raffia textiles.

textiles by Aissa Dione

Lastly, the collection also uses a range of new batik fabrics made by local craftspeople and purchased directly in Africa.

Shadowy collection by Tord Boontje

Shadowy collection by Tord Boontje

Shadowy collection by Tord Boontje

Stephen Burks’s armchair

Stephen Burks’s pouffes

toogou by Bibi Seck and Ayse Birse

bayekou by Bibi Seck and Ayse Birse

bayekou by Bibi Seck and Ayse Birse

Nopolou by Bibi Seck and Ayse Birse



  • friend
    steve | 2009-06-20 12:31:23

    some of them are very nice.

  • friend
    teadd | 2009-06-21 00:38:47

    Waaaaaa O_O

  • friend
    JR Nuerge | 2009-06-21 20:24:26

    I absolutely love the Shadowy and the Binta chairs! Who reps them in the US? Would love to incorporate them in my designs. JR Nuerge Eco-friendly+Eco-nomical=Eco-fabulous http://www.designsbyjrn.com

  • friend
    Kyusang park | 2009-06-25 06:20:12

    WHOAA Great!! I love these!! > <

  • friend
    noroc | 2009-07-11 09:37:22

    very beautiful, good luck!

  • friend
    Megan | 2009-08-27 23:55:58

    love this concept. thanks for the post!

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