Malian designer Cheick Diallo’s impeccable furniture and objects challenge common perceptions of African design with their mix of ancient wisdom and contemporary sensibility. A creative risk-taker, Cheick trained as an architect at the Ecole d’Architecture de Normandie in France and there he discovered design, enrolling in the furniture design course at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle (ENSCI) in Paris from 1992 to 1994. During this time, his Ifen lamp and Rivale chair earned him top honours from the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris.
Cheick returned to his home city of Bamako to establish his studio, deciding from the start to restrict himself to working only with local materials and artisanal skills. He and his team of craftsmen produce furniture and objects of impeccable finish that play ambiguously with the notion of luxury, manufacturing objects from everyday detritus – from bottle tops to fishing wire to old tyres. He has become renowned for his elegantly curved seats made from woven and knotted colourful nylon thread.
Over the past 20 years he has become a major figure, and is often cited as the first person to develop conceptual design in an African context. He has exhibited extensively all over the world, including the Hayward Gallery in London, the National Centre for Art and Culture Georges Pompidou in Paris, Kunst Palace in Düsseldorf, and a 2012 solo show at the Museum Mandet in France. His work was included in the Vitra Museums’ exhibition “Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design” and in “AfricaRemix” at the Johannesburg Art Gallery and the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo. He has exhibited with Southern Guild at Design Miami/ Basel and Design Miami.