A highlight of April's Salone del Mobile in Milan was M'Afrique, an exhibition commissioned by Moroso and curated by the American industrial designer, Stephen Burks. And, in a showroom filled with inspiring pieces, Birsel + Seck's Bayekou recliner was one of the most inspiring. I loved its sinuous lines, the geometric weave and uplifting, jewel-like aqua blue and violet colour combination; loved how fabulous it felt to sit on. Or is that lie on? In fact, it's somewhere - the perfect point - between the two. Whatever the word, I'm willing to bet that this one of the most comfortable pieces of furniture ever made. A minute more and I might have drifted off to sleep in the middle of the exhibition. (Although I would much rather it was in the shade of a leafy tree - or in my living room.) Most of all, I loved the way it exuded soul.
Handmade in Senegal by African artisans using twisted and welded metal for the frame and nylon thread woven in traditional patterns for the seat, this piece is as ancient as it is modern. Which makes it all the more surprising that it has come from a design duo better known for Herman Miller office furniture and the interior of the Renault Twingo II. But there's a wonderful "back to roots" story here: Patrizia Moroso, the creative director of the eponymous furniture company (whose husband is Senegalese) wanted to celebrate Africa "in the most beautiful way" with a collection of furniture. A meeting with the Turkish-born Ayse Birsel and French-Senegalese Bibi Seck was a meeting of minds - and immaculately timed, since the designers had just returned to New York after two years of living in Dakar.
The process of creating the recliner was as organic as the resulting product, with Seck returning to Dakar to work hands-on with the craftsmen and sending sketches and photos back to Birsel for refinement as the work progressed. Bayekou is a prototype but, according to Moroso, it will "probably" go into production later in the year. Here's hoping. For Moroso stockists in the GCC contact +39 0432 577111; www.moroso.it