artisan highlight: jomo tariku

Part of a series highlighting different artists, artisans, and creators who create work for a more beautiful space and life.

In light of the paradigm shift taking place culturally through the Black Lives Matter movement, I’ve realized that my knowledge of black-owned businesses, especially artisans and designers, has been quite limited. Just as there isn’t very much knowledge of Asian art in America, there really isn’t a wide breadth of knowledge on black artisans readily available either, and many of us don’t know where to find these resources. Thankfully, through the recent combined efforts on social media, a wide array of incredible black creators have been exposed. I’ve become enamored by one artisan in particular: Jomo Tariku.

The furniture that Jomo creates is deeply rooted in the appreciation of African art and culture. He incorporates his heritage into contemporary furniture designs to create a fresh perspective on traditional pieces. One of his acclaimed works is his modern take on the African birthing chair: “The Birth Chair II (BCII) was inspired by African birthing chairs, which are used in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. Like most home furnishings in African countries it serves a dual purpose with a utilitarian function as both a decorative element and a seat.”

Photo by Jomo Furniture
Photo by Jomo Tariku

Isn’t the acrylic seat combined with the carved wood back just amazing?

‘Ashanti I’: Height Adjustable Stool. A modern interpretation of the traditional Ashanti stool from Ghana.  Photos by Jomo Furniture.
‘Boraatii Stool/End Table’: Height Adjustable Stool. Inspired by the headrests design found in the Oromia region of Ethiopia which is used to protect the elaborate hair weave/cut while asleep.  Photos by Jomo Furniture
‘Nyala Chair’: The inspiration for this chair is the mountain Nyala antelope found in Ethiopia. Photo by Jomo Furniture
Photos by Jomo Furniture
‘E’nsera’: End Table /Stool’. E’nsera is the Ethiopian word for water jug. Removable top for storage. Photos by Jomo Furniture
‘Mukecha’: End Table / Stool. Photo by Jomo Furniture

“Mukecha is inspired by traditional African mortars that come in varying sizes; small ones for coffee bean grinding to large ones that allows the family or neighbors in rural areas to take turns helping each other out by grinding either corn, barley, wheat or other staple grain. Even though this is a back breaking and time consuming process,  women sing which also help with their synchronization, taking turn pounding the mortar with the pestle in quick succession. Both the mortar and pestle are always made from the toughest wood available in each region so it can last a long time.”

Part of the importance of highlighting black-owned businesses, artisans, and creators is knowing their story and learning of their inspirations, which often originates from their cultural heritage, just as I’m endlessly inspired by my cultural roots in Korea. Broadening our perspectives help us not only to become more knowledgeable, but also makes us recognize that whatever is foreign to us is dear to another culture, and these are what make us so wonderfully different as humans. Discovering artisans such as Jomo has educated me further in African history and art, and I hope I’ve shed a similar light with you as well.


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