The world will finally get to see the results of what happens when Ikea taps into the “creative explosion” in Africa right now.
Just over a year ago, Ikea recruited some of Africa’s top designers to create a unique line. This month, Ikea offered the first glimpse of that collaboration, known as Överallt, which means “everywhere” in Swedish. The range includes armchairs, textiles, benches and tableware.
At Design Indaba in Cape Town last year, Ikea built a simple house in the expo area where designers began working on their pieces and travelled back and forth to Sweden over the last year to complete them. The designers who got to work with Ikea were clear about the opportunity of bringing their work to a new customer base.
“Every designer wants to spread their message all over the world and Ikea reaches so many people,” Hend Riad said in the house. Riad is one half of the Cairo-based design company Reform Studio, who with design partner Mariam Hazem created a woven textile from traditional jute fibers and recycled silver food packaging. Both were named as Quartz Africa Innovators for their work, which was inspired by the 2012 Egyptian revolution.
Ten designers representing seven African countries collaborated with five in-house designers to produce a range that blends Ikea’s Scandinavian functionality with philosophies of African design. The range is refreshing because it doesn’t just fall back into simple interpretations of design on the continent, like covering a chair in Ankara fabric.
Instead, each designer has drawn on their culture but also their experience of contemporary urban Africa. One of those designs is a basket by Senegalese artist, designer and also a Quartz Africa innovator Selly Reby Kane. The basket incorporates hair-braiding techniques, created with in-house designer Iina Vuorivirta.
“Braiding is this shared moment, when your head either ends up on a family member’s lap for hours and hours or you lean back in a chair in a cool salon, listening to the latest Dakar and foreign pop while keeping an eye on your hairstyle in the making,” Kane said in Ikea’s statement.
There’s also South African fashion designer Laduma Ngxokolo, who has collaborated with Ikea’s Mikael Axelsson to create a rug using Ngxokolo’s signature geometric patterns. Ngxokolo has built a career from drawing from his Xhosa culture to create a distinct knitted fashion line, Maxhosa.
Many of the Överallt pieces were influenced by the designers’ own focus on sustainability. Ivorian architect Issa Diabaté and Nairobi-based Bethan Rayner and Naeem Biviji of Studio Propolis brought their focus on environmental sustainability and re-use to the range.
Despite the optimism the range communicates about African design, the designs won’t be available to buy in most of Africa other than in Ikea’s only African outlets are in Morocco and Egypt. The collection will be available for a limited time from May next year, but so far there are no indications, according to an Ikea spokesperson, that the range will be available at any African stores.