Sunday, February 27, 2011

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!).
Moroso-M'Afrique collection
Bibi’s stools, made in Senegal, of recycled plastic, are currently exhibited at the Museum of Art and Design’s Global Africa show.

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. 
Moroso-M'Afrique Collection

Moroso-M'Afrique Collection
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.
Finished stools in use at PS1
Detail of stool
Double table at PS1


  1. Hello Dyane,

    Thanks for this article!
    Just wanted to say that I saw the progress of the Bibi Seck's project here in Dakar! It was inspiring to see the final products and as a Senegalese I see how plastic waste is problematic in the whole country... And I hope the 75% recycled plastic Taboo will be one of many projects to follow, and maybe be part of the solution...

  2. Fatimata Ly - Thank you for your comment, and I also hope that recycled plastic will move to the rest of the continent. Many items are re-used, such as soda cans, bottles, but at some point they become trash. Then what? An even more pressing issue is e-trash. A suivre!

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