Snapshots on Africa: food, customs, styles, business and more.
Bibi Seck, Industrial Designer in New York City
Ayse, Bibi, and daughters
Bibi Seck is an industrial and product designer of Senegalese and Martiniquais descent, introduced from afar by Fatimata Ly, a Senegalese ceramics designer I wrote about last year.
As a matter of fact, I had been hearing about him and his spouse, Ayse Birsel, for a while already: the New York African design community is not that large, and especially an African married to a fellow Middle Easterner (Turks are Middle Easterners as well as Europeans, with literally a foot in both worlds; and of course we had the Ottoman Empire for six centuries!).
I interviewed him last week to find out what his path had been to this point. Bibi was raised between Europe and Senegal.He had planned on studying architecture at first, but then found his true vocation in Industrial Design at the Ecole Supérieure de Design Industriel. After graduating, he spent many years as automobile designer for Renault, in France. During a trip to New York, he met Ayse, and after a few years he moved to New York to found a family, and the firm Birsel + Seck.
A few years ago Birsel + Seck was approached by an Italian firm, Moroso, to create designs for an upcoming show in Milan, M’Afrique which took place at the Moroso showroom. Bibi designed 9 items. The Bayekou chair was just featured in the New York Times Home section.
At the Biennale of Dakar, he met an entrepreneur who dealt in recycling plastic for industrial use, and they formed a joint venture to make furniture from recycled plastic in Senegal.
The factory in Dakar-making the stools
The factory in Dakar-making the stools
Most recently, in 2011, the Museum of Modern Art PS1 in Long Island City, NY,inaugurated new cafeteria stools. This was the result of a not-for-profit fundraising effort, spearheaded by Herman Miller Furniture. The true adventure was in getting the furniture in time to New York from Dakar! Below are a few photos of the manufacturing process in Dakar (taken with Bibi's phone camera, so they are a little fuzzy), and the finished product in use at PS1.
Ndolé with fried plantains Food in tropical Africa, as everywhere in the world, is mainly made with local products. Notable exceptions: tomatoes have become a staple, after being imported by the Europeans who had themselves imported them from South America. Tomatoes are not quite as ubiquitous as in southern Italy, but are the go-to item for sauces when a cook is in a crunch. Another import is salt cod, also known in the Americas as Bacalao . Cooked with what else... tomato sauce! Onions are also very popular, and I don’t think they are originally from the African continent. Ndolé plant Food, traditionally, is cooked. Well cooked. Salads used to be an unknown entity, and older people still call it “goat’s food.” Raw, or insufficiently cooked, would have been—and may still be—dangerous, in the hot and humid equatorial climate, where bacteria thrive, as it is never cold. Snow is a completely unknown entity. Even after a third of his life spent in temperate climates, my hus
Professor Mark DeLancey Mark Dike DeLancey is an Associate Professor of History of Art and Architecture and Director of the Islamic World Studies Program at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois (USA). He wrote an article within the Cameroon chapter of a soon-to-be-published book about African Architecture (DOM Editions), which is how I heard of him (I had written and compiled information for the chapter). As I got to know him via Facebook, I became curious about his background, as he appeared to have extensive ties to Africa in general and Cameroon in particular, beyond his academic specialty. Dr. DeLancey was born in South Carolina, USA. His family moved to Cameroon when he was two years old, in 1975. Both mother and father were Professors of African Studies; as Dr. DeLancey recounts it: “They became interested in Africa as a result of being stationed in Buguma for 2 years with the Peace Corps.” Sir B.M Okororie with Virginia H. De