Architizer 2013

5 Designers Of The African Diaspora You Need To Know

Stephen Burks, an industrial designer and founder of ReadyMade, has done a lifetime’s worth of work with craft technique. His design philosophy advocates for a new kind of luxury, one that betrays the handiwork of those who made it and the materials that went into it. He argues that artisanal crafts belong in the contemporary design world, and so far, he’s been right: He’s worked with Moroso, and has had solo shows at both the Museum of Art and Design and The Studio Museum Harlem.However, in this way, he has also been tokenized by the design world— he has become “the” go-to designer “African” objects.

The following product designers may not have the same name recognition as Stephen Burks, but they are doing similarly brilliant work that engages with Africa and its culture. (If you want to know more about Stephen Burks, read more about him hereand here. )

Not all of the designers on this list live in Africa, but their products orbit around the overpowering idea of Africa. Diasporic, which refers to the dispersion of African peoples throughout the world, is perhaps the closest we can come to naming them. The ideas they grapple with are similar to Burks’s: recycling and reuse as a way of telling complex stories of translation, hybridity as a way to express a continual cycle of exchange, the lost art of the handmade object and how it speaks to a global economy, and so forth. They all bring insights and subversions to an often staid, predictable field.