Virginia based, Kenyan born, Ethiopian Jomo Tariku, is proving his aesthetic worth with his latest furniture designs.
Tariku, who is the designer and founder of Jomo Furniture, was featured as part of a story on the Black Artists + Designers Guild; in the April 2019 issue of ELLE Decor. His beautiful wood pieces are handmade and inspired by the artisans of Sub-Saharan Africa. This article is an excerpt from his interview feature.
Jomo Tariku moved to the United States In1987 to study industrial design at the University of Kansas; for Tariku, “All of my collections are inspired by my African cultural heritage. The two chairs are the result of my obsession with traditional three-legged stools. The Nyala chair came from a sketch I developed after seeing the beautiful horns of the male mountain antelope; and the MeQuamya chair was inspired by the T-shaped prayer staffs used in Ethiopian Orthodox church ceremonies…and the Ashanti is a reinterpretation of a traditional Ghanaian stool; while the Boratii was inspired by the wooden headrest found in the Oromia region of Ethiopia.
The Challenges Of Hurdles Faced By Jomo Tariku
Addressing his challenges, he says; “The standard definition of African furniture was either European furniture upholstered with colorful batik fabrics; or hand-crafted pieces, or recycled or upcycled furniture, masks, and so on. That did not align with my approach to designing modern African furniture. The market was not ripe like it is now when I started in 2008. This led my partner and I to shut down our studio and pretty much walk away from it all.”
On The Design Industry, Jomo Tariku believes that; “There is a lack of black designers in the home and décor industry. It’s very evident to me, especially when I travel for shows or attend conferences all over the world where I am one of a few black designers present. Seeing it once is fine, but when you notice it repeatedly, you recognize our role is minuscule. It’s the same issue with trend-setting magazines. I say this because our industry is so closely defined by one’s history and cultural heritage; be it in the making or design process. The ultimate definers of it have repeatedly been designers and companies from Italy, the Scandinavian countries, Germany, Japan, Spain, and Brazil.”