For Virginia-based, Ethiopian American industrial designer Jomo Tariku, African culture has always played a role in what he creates. As an advocate for change, Tariku co-founded BADG (Black Artists and Designers Guild) and continues to help move the needle forward for global design and the contemporary interpretation of American craft. The trailblazing talent’s work has even landed in major institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Where did you learn to love design? Our home in Ethiopia was filled with beautiful objects. My dad was an avid collector of interesting pieces from Africa and around the world. During summer break, I would sketch these objects not knowing it would eventually lead to a career in design.
How do African traditions play into your work? I did my undergraduate thesis on creating a modern line of African furniture and I have never wavered from that even though it has not been easy. Design is supposed to be a global language but until recently you would be hard pressed to find a contemporary African design by a Black designer. I am always referencing my heritage. Even the inspiration for my Nyala chair are the horns of shy, an elusive mountain antelope from the Bale Mountains in Ethiopia.
PORTRAIT PHOTO BY GEDIYION KIFLE; NAYALA CHAIR PHOTO BY JULIA LEHMAN PHOTOGRAPHY
IMAGINATION UNBOUNDThis story is part of a seven-part feature, which taps creatives from around the globe who are breathing new life into traditional craft. Check in as:
- Klove Studio pays homage to the artistic practices of India through lighting
- LagunaB embraces sustainability and revamps Venetian glassware
- Hamza Kadiri breathes new life into woodworking
- The talented artisans of Toast make enduring homewares
- Ecru preserves Arab and Indian craft legacy
- Sanayi313 redefines Turkish craft traditions and techniques
- Jomo Tariku reshapes American craft with global flair