From exquisitely artisan crafted juju hats to inlay furniture designs, travel to the smiling continent of Africa through these curated eclectic boho styling inspirations.
When it comes down to handcrafted African homewares, every piece of skillfully made furniture or decor accessory embodies centuries-old history, traditions, rituals, and significant events from the region, the country, and the tribe it originates from.
From the materials sourced to produce homewares to ancestral hand weaving, painting, design patterns, or the hand-carving techniques used in the homeware-making processes passed down generationally, master artisans use their creations to tell stories. They tell the stories of funeral rituals, royal festivities, prosperity, people’s daily lives, respect for nature and the ancestors, and they share their hope for a better future and for new beginnings in the afterlife.
Delve into this enchanting world of African artisan masterpieces to create a unique boho styling that is evocative of a place well lived in by a world class traveller and design connoisseur.
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The Furniture Pieces
Start your African travel and interior styling journey by exploring 3 hand-carved wooden furniture pieces from Morocco in North Africa and Ghana, located in West Africa.
Targua Coffee Table
For the first 2 furniture pieces, the Targua coffee table and the Moroccan inlay desk, master artisans used the bone inlay furniture-making process, which dates back from Ancient Egypt around 3000 BC. The artisanal process consists of small pieces of either camel or cow bone, shell or ivory that are pressed on a flat surface of a furniture against a contrasting background colour generally made of resin, revealing a beautiful intricate design pattern that works as a statement décorr. In the past, inlay was an artisan craft, afforded only by society’s wealthy elite. Handmade antique inlay pieces still very much remain quite expensive to this day.
Moroccan Inlay Desk
Available at Etsy.com
The vintage Ashanti stool represents an important symbol in the lives of the Asante and other Akan peoples in Ghana, as carved stools from a single block of wood are gifted to people to mark important milestones in their lives from childhood to their passing away. The seat is typically curved and supported over a rectangular base by a central column and four corner posts. Some of the celebrated life events include a father gifting a stool to his baby who is learning to crawl, young women’s puberty rites that require sitting on their stools, a groom’s gift to his bride when they marry, and the bathing of a deceased person on a stool before burial. After the death of an important leader, ceremonial stools are blackened and enshrined to illustrate the stool ability to represent a person’s soul.
Vintage Ashanti Stool
The delightful rugs
To ground your living spaces with beautiful handcrafted rugs, head to Marrakech to explore the souks and high end vintage boutiques to discover one-of-a-kind treasures from Morocco and other parts of Africa that will enhance your interior.
The White and Black Beni Ourain rug has become a staple of minimalist boho styling. Every year, people from all corners of the world flock to Marrackech to search for the coveted authentic Beni Ourain rugs made of sheep wool and painstakingly hand woven by women from the Berber tribes inhabiting the Atlas mountains in Morocco. To make a standard sized rug, hand weavers need to collect wool from between 50 to 100 sheep. The wool is then cleaned, spooled, and hand woven to create a beautiful rug according to the agreed design. If different shades are needed for the rug, local flora and spices will be used to dye the yard. Due to their handmade nature, no two Beni Ourain rugs ever look the same, even if they exhibit the same design. This is what makes them very appealing to collectors.
The Tuareg mat made by nomadic Tuareg tribes in the Sahara desert of Mauritania has become another highly valued carpet by collectors due to its beautiful aesthetic combined with its ability to withstand the hottest and toughest weather in the world. The handwoven rugs are made of natural palm tree fibres and cow or camel leather strips, and they are traditionally used as tent or floor covering in Tuareg gatherings. The versatility and durability of this artisan masterpiece makes it suitable for your indoor or outdoor spaces.
The decorative accessories
Finish off your boho styling with some gorgeous decorative accessories that will add uniqueness to your home.
With its beautiful white cowries and beads, the White Namji doll from the Nanji tribe of North Cameroon will be a tasteful decoration to any corner of your living spaces, from the console table, your credenza, to your chosen shelves. Also known as Dowado dolls, the Namji dolls are fertility dolls hand carved into a geometric shape from a single block of African Rosewood, which is subsequently decorated with various beads, metals, fibre, cowrie shells, coins, and sometimes leather. No two Namji dolls are alike; these make them highly prized possessions for African art collectors. Vintage ones fetch for a high price. The Namji dolls help prepare the young Namji woman for her role as a mother in her future life. The Namji people believe that these fertility dolls help ward off evil spirits that cause infertility and difficult labour. They also believe the dolls prevent miscarriage and promote safe delivery of babies.
Venture next to Western Cameroon in Central Africa to get an off-white juju hat from the Bamileke tribe. Created from real bird feathers, juju Hats are traditionally worn by royalty and other senior members of society at festivals and tribal ceremonies as a symbol of prosperity, and a representation of the purity of life and the beauty of birds. When an elder dies, the owner’s juju hat is passed down to the next in line who may inherit the wealth and standing of the person that has gone to the world of the ancestors. You can opt to have your juju hat customised in other colours to match your overall interior colour scheme.
A Malian mudcloth cushion in a subtle off-white colour with a few black stripes will add an extra touch of earthiness and eco-friendly chic vibes to your space. Also known as the bogolan, this fabulous African textile is made of narrow strips of handwoven cotton that are sewn together to form a whole cloth, which is then painted with various patterns and symbols using natural dyes from mud or tree barks that have been aged up to a year. The handwoven cloth is used to make a wide variety of home decor pieces from cushions, throw blankets, to sophisticated wall arts. Each piece is unique in design, which justifies its appeal and price.
In true boho style, a versatile artisan made basket is a must. Go for Tamaduni geometric fine weave sisal baskets from Kenya, East Africa. Tamaduni in swahili means traditional.
Large TAMADUNI geometric fine weave sisal basket
The finely hand woven baskets made by women in rural villages embody the colours of their rural homelands, the selected patterns depict the hills and the valleys of the lands individual weavers originate from. Each basket is unique in design and relies on the weavers’ own creativity.