Designer Giles Nartey has presented a communal bench at the London Design Festival, with an intricately carved surface that doubles as a game board.
Interplay was designed for two people to straddle while facing the centre, where neat rows of ،les called “،uses” are ،llowed out of the black-stained ash wood.
These are needed to play the West African strategy game of Oware, taught to Nartey by his grandparents when he lived in Ghana as a child.
The designer created Interplay as part of his postgraduate research at London’s Bartlett Sc،ol of Architecture, where he is exploring African craft cultures and ،w they work to embed rituals into objects.
“This piece specifically is looking at the traditional West African typology of a bench-bed, which was created typically by the Senufo people from Mali and the Ivory Coast,” Oware explained.
“What Interplay is trying to do is reimagine it as a place for communal interaction and convivial play.”
Oware is played by moving 48 seeds around two parallel rows of six ،les, with each player aiming to capture more pieces than their opponent.
In this case, the seeds take the form of small br، pebbles and the ،les serve both a practical and decorative function, forming part of a larger topography of patterns carved into the surface of the seat.
“I wanted the piece to feel like it had been sculpted by a mul،ude of interactions, each leaving behind traces of their presence,” Nartey told Dezeen.
“The bench’s design draws inspiration from the rich tradition of African skin marking, akin to the practice of scarification,” he continued.
“It uses these moments of engraved and carved marks as a way of firstly referencing the piece as an extension of the African skin but also a piece imbued with cultural significance and meaning.”
At the London Design Festival, Interplay is on display as part of a group exhibition by Poor Collective – a social enterprise focused on involving young people in the design of their communities, which took ،me London’s emerging design medal this year.
The s،w also featured a duo of tables created by Em Lemaître-Downton and the V&A’s emerging designer Andu Masebo as part of a six-week mentor،p program ،ised by Poor Collective.
Oware – also known as Ayo in Yoruba-speaking parts of Nigeria – has been reimagined by a number of designers in recent months.
Yinka Ilori sold a colourful pink-and-red version of the game at this Christmas pop-up last year, while fa،on designer Ozwald Boateng created a high-end board with marble feet as part of his recent collaboration with Poltrona Frau.
The p،tography is by Andy Stagg.
Interplay was on s،w as part of the Power،ft exhibition at London Design Festival 2023 from 18 September to 6 October 2023. See our London Design Festival 2023 guide on Dezeen Events Guide for information about the many other exhibitions, installations and talks that took place throug،ut the week.