We caught up with Aga’s founding partner and creative director, Moyo Ogunseinde to hear her thoughts on a new world with AGA in it. She says it’s a world filled with love, peace, kindness and health.
Read more on our first series: Table Talks: Introducing Aga Culture
Sheila: So first things first, what does AGA stand for literally and figuratively?
Moyo: AGA is a Yoruba word for chair and the chair is always a functional piece. It's a piece of furniture that is used everywhere. Figuratively, AGA has come to us as a functional piece that compliments our life. AGA represents a lifestyle that’s African. It’s our take on design; design with a point of view that is African, contemporary, sort of minimal & pared down. AGA has also become a culture that is about Love (Ifé), it's about Peace (Okan Balé), it’s about Kindness (Inu Rere), it's about Health (Alaafia). It's about these important tenants/cultural values that embody everything we do, and you can feel it and experience it in the things we make. So we go from designing & making things that are functional chairs, tables, stools, light fittings, to things that you wear—apparel, clothing. AGA has become a lifestyle that embodies this inclusive & welcoming point of view. I think, I think now more than ever, everyone has a point of view which is yearning to be expressed. I think there's a place for everyone. There’s a place for AGA
Sheila: I noticed that you said lots of local Nigerian language in your materials. How does that local verbal language translate into local visual language?
Moyo: The fabric or the essence of what we do is about, showcasing Africa in this particular contemporary style. So in terms of the origin or the narrative that we choose to make, we start off from African narratives— stories past, present & future. That’s usually the foundation of the stories we build weave into our design. They could either be my stories or stories of people in the team or stories or stories from my community, stories of the city. This is a pathway through which we have found our visual language in the whole beautiful mess of the local verbal language. The choices of material being mostly locally sourced—be it wood or bronze— also adds to this visual perspective mirroring the verbal perspective. And then the craftsmanship is also honed very locally. The craftsmanship alone is infused with an intergenerational set of skills made and developed by Africans to manipulate these very local materials. We like for the visual language to be infused subtly and strongly throughout the whole process of making.
Sheila: I know that there are a few people that feel contentious about using “Africa” to describe a wide range of cultures. How do you deal with being a Nigerian trying to design in an African way? Do you ever consider the term too large or just big enough for you?
Moyo: I think it's big enough for me. I think it's big enough for everyone. Even non Africans. I think it's big enough. I think what's really important is the Authenticity; how authentic you are about it. You have to make sure it doesn't feel like you're borrowing it just for a minute. You, you have to live, breathe and have experienced it. You don't have to be a certain color or race, to have experienced being African. By being inside the continent and within the community, you can say that we are in the best position, but sometimes you find that being inside a thing means that you don't really see very clearly. In my case, I found that I had to actually travel out of Nigeria um, to actually appreciate what I have. I went to university outside Nigeria and, worked abroad. But I didn’t do anything that was particularly African. I just spent time just exploring, exploring and after all was said and done, I realized I have deeper roots back home. But the techniques of learning or critical thinking or research—I apply it now to what I do, so that when I do have to talk about any topic, I still apply the critical thinking, the way I do research and the way of speaking.
Interview by Sheila Chiamaka Chukwulozie
Photographs by Subomi Disu & Oroma Roxella Rukevwe
Over the next weeks, we will be sharing more on our Table Talks series and each table talk is inspired from the works of artists, designers and culture-makers, please be on the look out.