DMTV Milkshake: Chrissa Amuah on Creating a Dynamic Platform for African Designers
Chrissa Amuah was born and raised in London – but it’s her connection to her family’s homeland of Ghana (along with Benin and Togo) that plays such a crucial role in her work, both as the creative director and founder of AMWA Designs and as the founding director of the Africa By Design platform, which she calls “a concept of love intended to showcase and celebrate the best of Africa’s design talent.”
Thirty-five designers from eight sub-Saharan African countries – Nigeria, Somalia, Ghana, Togo, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, and Ethiopia – now participate in the project. “Their work spans furniture design, textile design, product design, and environmental design,” she says. “The whole concept behind the platform was to showcase the very best of Africa’s very diverse designer talent. It’s not often that designers from the continent were being showcased in a way that spoke to the authenticity of their design – often influenced by local culture and customs, but with a modern and contemporary perspective.” We asked her what she considers her biggest ambition for the platform: “To grow,” she tells us. “I want to expand its scope for design education – enabling and inspiring and facilitating the next generation of designers from the continent. I believe that not only can design be something of beauty, but it can also be used to solve problems. [I also hope] we can figure out a way to do lots of beautiful exhibitions showcasing the wonderful works of the designers.”
Also in this Milkshake, we talk about Chrissa’s 2021 project for Bernhardt Furniture, titled A Sense of Duality. “It speaks to the duality of my heritage,” she says, noting that her design contends primarily with the visual language, motifs, and stories of Ghana. “Working with Bernhardt was nothing but a dream, a dream collaboration, collaboration in the truest sense of the word.” Speaking of Ghana: We asked Chrissa to share her favorite Ghanaian proverb, since motifs from their stories animate some of her work. “There’s one about a ‘Siamese crocodile’ [with two heads] – if they were to fight over food, they would both suffer because they share one stomach,” she says. “It speaks to our unity. And I really liked that.”
For more with Chrissa – including some eternally wise professional advice about how to reach out to potential new collaborators in style – tune in!
Diana Ostrom, who has written for Wallpaper, Interior Design, ID, The Wall Street Journal, and other outlets, is also the author of Faraway Places, a newsletter about travel.
Milkshake, DMTV (Design Milk TV)’s first regular series, shakes up the traditional interview format by asking designers, creatives, educators and industry professionals to select interview questions at random from their favorite bowl or vessel. During their candid discussions, you’ll not only gain a peek into their personal homeware collections, but also valuable insights into their work, life and passions.