One of the foundational premises of Cheick Diallo’s designs is the radically contemporary nature of his creations. He rejects products which are anecdotally or nostalgically based on stereotypical “signs of the African”.
Born 1960 in Mali and trained as an architect and industrial designer in the 1990s in France, in 1997 he founded Diallo Design and in 2004 the African Designers Association. His furniture and objects, which can be found in numerous international collections, often have their point of origin in the long-established and day-to-day trades of West African cities, especially Bamako: these trades encompass silver forgery, tannery, weaving, textile dyeing, and scrap metal processing. With the aim to productively juxtapose these different trades, his designs disrupt the boundaries of traditionally separate métiers: for his chairs and side tables he transfers techniques used for dyeing textiles to leather, and mixes them with the tréssage method; his cutlery series follows from a collaboration between Tuareg silver smiths and ivory carvers.
Another characteristic of Diallo Design is the remarkable attention directed at everyday objects and their transitory potential: one of the first stools he created during his studies was formed from a snow shovel; the reference point for Fauteuil Mo is a fish trap commonly used on the shores of the Niger. The core of this chair as well as of the expansible Table Caba and the Fauteuil Baloo consists of a metal skeleton made from iron rods which are wrapped in nylon.
His designs also materialize those techniques used in urban environments, such as a practice called récuperation which salvages, processes, and renews already-existing materials. In a mode of what he calls “aesthetic utile”, “artisans produce excellent objects in pretty extraordinary locations”. Of importance here are how new ways of utilizing material are developed – folding and forming, cobbling and mending, assembling. The object collection compiled by Diallo showcases the distinctive features of this everyday design, “things of the household” (called Somasiri in Bambara), which is used by over 80% of Mali’s population. Diallo harks back to these practices, expands them, and gives them a contemporary signature.