This Designer is Celebrating Ghanaian Tradition With Her Spirited New Line of Textiles

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“In Ghana, if someone is wearing particular colors or patterns, I’ll know whether they’re grieving a loved one or if the person is elderly or young,” says designer Chrissa Amuah. “There is a culture of giving names to fabrics that convey sentiments, wisdoms, even humor.” The London-born talent, Ghanaian by descent, has long been inspired by adinkra, the vast lexicon of symbols that has been incorporated into local pottery, architecture, and textiles for centuries. And now she is celebrating those motifs in Duality, her first collection of fabrics for Bernhardt Textiles. Whereas one pattern, Aya, features an abstracted fern—an emblem of strength, sturdiness, and resilience—another, Sella, reinterprets the iconography of Asesegua wooden stools. “Traditionally these were seats that only royalty sat on,” Amuah explains of the design, now a household staple throughout Ghana. She devised Ink, meanwhile, by applying pigment to walnut veneer—reimagining Kete Pa, a cheeky adinkra motif that means “good bed” and symbolizes a good marriage. (Proper sleep, she notes, indicates peace of mind.) “When people think of African-inspired fabrics, there’s a certain cliché or stereotype,” says Amuah, who founded Africa by Design, a platform for makers from sub-Saharan countries, in 2017 and collaborated with Nigerian architect Tosin Oshinowo on conceptual headpieces for Lexus’s 2020 presentation at Design Miami. “But Africa is such a diverse continent. I think it’s important to provoke people’s way of seeing things.” bernhardtdesign.com

Chrissa Amuah with fabrics for Bernhardt Textiles. 

The Aya pattern was inspired by a fern, a symbol of resilience.

Sharing Her Platform

Launched in 2017, Africa by Design exhibits the work of 34 talents from eight African countries, through shows online and in person. “I try to help them reach a bigger audience,” notes Amuah, who founded the initiative after debuting work at Salone del Mobile, where she noticed a dearth of sub-Saharan representation. “There’s a whole chunk of countries that is kind of overlooked or associated with safari and lion skin and zebra stripes.” Now she’s reshaping the conversation. “This is just the tip of the iceberg.” africabydesign.org 

Stool by Ethiopian-American designer Jomo Tariku

Chair by Inoussa Dao of Burkina Faso

Chair by Cheick Diallo of Mali

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