Lani Adeoye: «Progettare
nel rispetto dell’umanità»

La vincitrice del SaloneSatellite 2022, oggi profilo di spicco tra i designer internazionali, tra i protagonisti del nostro magazine: qui l’intervista inglese

Lani Adeoye is the Nigerian-Canadian designer winner of the SaloneSatellite 2022, the platform for the next generation of designers promoted by Salone del Mobile.Milano, founded by Marva Griffin. Graduated at the Parson School of Design in New York and in Economics at the McGill University, Adeoye is a rising star of contemporary design. La Provincia made an interview with her, the Italian translation has been published in the Salone del Mobile special issue. Here is the original text, in English.

Your design, Ms Adeoye, is deeply involved with ethics. You are concerned with human dignity. Your aim is to create objects that elevate people. Where did this inspiration come from? How is it currently part of your work?

I believe before I had the language to talk about it, I’ve always naturally cared about humanity and I’ve always been inspired by community. I see design and creativity in general as a very powerful tool to tell stories that help unite us all. The more we share our culture with each other, the more we respect each other, treat each other with dignity and empathize with each other. Furthermore, the objects we surround ourselves with should elevate and enhance the quality of our life. I’m interested in human dignity in many ways, by creating designs that uplift the human spirit. I’m interested in designing for life’s rhythms and I believe design is for all. Last year I designed and presented RemX, a sculptural walker which encouraged the user to feel empowered when using it and to proudly display the walker like an Art piece in their home.

Your interdisciplinary – you graduated in Commerce, prior to becoming a designer and you worked as a strategy consultant at Accenture Group – makes your profile really unusual for an interior designer. How these different experiences /fields of studies did shape your professional career?

Although I was in a different career prior, design has been a lifelong journey. I’ve always been creating, either through artworks, fashion, jewelry design, hair making and eventually furniture. Even while I was in the corporate world, I was designing the furniture in my space but at that time I hadn’t started Studio-Lani. But overall my various interests and abilities gives me a diverse toolkit to reach for when solving problems; one that combines my analytical approach to function with an innate sensitivity to form.

Disabilities / physical differences are generally neglected by the furniture industry. You won Milan’s 2022 Salone Satellite Award - “Designing for our Future Selves” - First Place by presenting “RemX walker”. What idea lies behind this project?

Over the last couple of years, while taking care of my grandfather, I observed the psychological effect getting older was having on him. We bought him a walker to assist him, however he was embarrassed by it and often hid it when visitors came. He would often fall on his way to getting the walker from its hidden location. These falls have led to health complications, fractures and surgeries. After doing more research, I learnt that falling is the second leading cause of unintentional injury and accidentals deaths globally. Especially with regards to the elderly, falling can be prevented by the effective use of assistive devices.

However, a lot of the objects meant to assist the elderly, tend to have a ‘clinical aesthetic’. This cold look & feel, often makes the user feel worse about their situation. The mere appearance of the walker, constantly reminds the user and everyone around them about their current struggle. This motivated me to design a walker that exuded dignity. One that would uplift the user’s spirit and truly empower them. Therefore I designed the RemX walker and named it after my Grandfather Remi. The sculptural form of the RemX walker encourages the user to confidently utilize the piece in public and proudly display the piece like an Art piece at home. The choice of materials was quite intentional. Water Hyacinth, which is a highly sustainable material, was used to wrap the pipes. This natural material adds some warmth to the piece and contrasts beautifully with the Aso-oke fabric used on the intersecting pipes. Aso-oke is an indigenous textile also known as ‘Top Cloth’. This hand loomed fabric has been a part of the Yoruba culture since the 15th century and was initially reserved for royalty. The walker also has a detachable storage, for the user to conveniently place a few personal items such as phone, medication, keys e.t.c

In 2022 you debuted at Milan Design Week presenting the Ekaboo. What impression did you have from Milano’s atmosphere in the days of the Salone del Mobile?

It was really inspiring to see the emerging designers and to see more established firms in one space. And the energy and the way everyone at all ages come around to celebrate design is quite exhilarating.

How does sustainability (from materials to wastes and disassembling) enter your furniture objects?

It’s an important part in many ways. For example with the RemX walker, I used Water Hyacinth and Aso-oke two really sustainable materials. The talkings stools collection which I designed a few years ago, was motivated by using Matts which come from the Iran plant. In addition to materials and so forth, sustainability is also about designing timeless objects, objects that people connect to, care for and wouldn’t be easily discarded.

How do you reinterpret your Nigerian / African origins?

The objects I create have a universal appeal and have a deep sense of place, history and identity. I tap into my childhood memories living in Lagos and I also do a lot of research on cultural traditions and objects from Nigeria. And I’m inspired about blending contemporary design with traditional craftsmanship, as well as my Nigerian heritage. The talking table which one of my first designs was inspired by the West African Talking Drum (Dundun), which means ’sweet sound’ in the Yoruba language. The Talking Drum has the ability to mimic the human speech and was originally used as a communication tool, hence its name. It is now commonly used in celebrations such as birthdays and weddings. The Talking Table derived its sculptural form and sense of materiality from this celebratory instrument. The talking table is multifunctional, has a tray that can be taken off and a lighting feature as well.

From the campaign of Ekaboo we can grasp a different narrative about African life-style: relaxing, cultivated, not that kind of “struggle life” so often sketched by the media.

Yes the consistent negative images shown in the media reduces the dignity of black people. And I was intentional about showing black bodies in a state of elegance, challenging the typical trauma-narrative.

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