Thursday, September 28, 2023

Yinka Ilori Is Telling Nigerian Parables With Repurposed Vintage Furniture

“I want the furniture to tell a story about my culture and my identity and my upbringing because I’ve always been a bit jealous of my parents. They had such a rich heritage and culture.”- Yinka reveals.


Meet the London-based production designer, a graduate of London Metropolitan University, Ilori has exhibited in London, New York, Germany and Milan.  Yinka Ilori who up-cycles vintage furniture – inspired by traditional Nigerian parables and African fabrics he grew up with.

With two or three old pieces of abandoned furniture, Illori creates beautiful and thought-provoking pieces that focus on themes ranging from hope to identity.


“Chairs have always been a huge part of my culture, especially at home. If my dad came back from work and you sat in his chair, you just knew you had to get up.

It was a sign of respect offering your chair to someone who was a lot older than you. Not only that, old chairs are really powerful objects that have many stories to tell.”


Ilori chooses to repurpose furniture in this way not only because he is opposed to waste but also because he believes the process involved in upcycling allows him to tell a story through his work. His design approach starts with the dismantling of the original components of discarded furniture which he then re-assembles into a new piece, inflected with his culture, ready for use again.


Italian designer Martino Gamper’s “100 chairs in 100 days” project inspired Ilori and served as the trigger to his future projects. Integrating upcycling with aspects of his own heritage, Ilori’s work echoes the vibrant colours of Nigerian fabrics and includes symbolic references to his culture.

Using a combination of vintage modernist furniture and traditional African fabrics, Ilori elevates the discarded items he finds to create one-of-a-kind designs.


He collaborated with South African textile designer Laduma Ngxokolo on the piece shown at the “Africa Calling” exhibition, which was part of the Africa Utopia festival at London’s Southbank. Curated by Kathy Shenoy and Liezel Strauss, the exhibition presented the best of contemporary African design to the UK.


Ilori subverts the vanity of design by upscaling antique furniture and repurposing with color, prints and a new story that combines Western and African objects, in much the same way his mother and her friends may have combined their Yoruba dress with Swiss jewelry.

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