Raised in Ethiopia, Jomo Tariku grew up surrounded by eclectic art, souvenirs and furniture his father collected from Africa and beyond. By using the con-
tinent’s vast diversity as inspiration, the Ethiopian-
American artist and industrial designer tells stories
of his own experience of the artifacts, colors, land-
scape, wildlife, hairstyles and cultures found across
the 54 countries and 1.22 billion occupants who call
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 of concepts I had sketched,
or 3D modeled.
HOW DID THE NAME COME ABOUT?
The chair was named after the male mountain
WHO DESIGNED THE NYALA CHAIR?
The chair was designed by me.
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 horns 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,
the quality of work is what is makes it stand out
from the crowd.
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 2018 and pur-
chased the first one. We are working on having
some of my other designs, including the Nyala chair,
be part of their catalog. The interest has gone past
Italy to others here in the U.S., as well as Nigeria,
U.K. and South Africa.
WHAT’S SOMETHING PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT THE
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.
sources | PRODUCT Q+A | By Kadie Yale | Images courtesy of Jomo Tariku
FROM THE MOUNTAINTOPS
Nyala chair has