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Ousmane Mbaye Design

Ousmane Mbaye is a Senegalese designer and artist who uses largely recycled materials to create beautiful furniture and design pieces. With a fondness for metals and a curious mind, Mbaye is constantly looking to progress in the design world and bring creativity to everyday life, both in Africa and globally. His work is helping to spread the dynamism and richness of African creativity worldwide. 

We spoke to Ousmane to find out more about what inspires him, how he's contributing to the African design industry and how is work is received in Africa:

Tell us about your design work - what are you inspired by?

I work mainly on furniture design. It’s definitely the core of my business, but I also design decorative items like trays, lamps or chandeliers. I have also worked in events as an Artistic Director and I regularly show my own work at exhibitions and events too. Staging is one of the elements of my job that I enjoy the most. I also do interior design for customers who request it. However, I am interested in textile design, contemporary photography and I love painting and ceramics. It’s often simply a question of meeting and sharing. I find all creative fields interesting and, for me, the most important quality for a creative is curiosity.

I’m inspired by everything - with a capital "E"! Other people, street life… A song, a look, a picture ... a discussion, an exchange, the work of a poet or a painter. Everything can be inspiring. We must absorb everything, listen to our hearts and enjoy! 

Ousmane Mbaye Design

You use discarded metals and materials and recycle them into furniture. Is this an important part of your work?

I don’t exclusively use discarded materials, I also work with copper and wood, but it’s true that much of my work is made from “recycled” metal. It’s a material that I learned to love and which I find noble. It’s both cold and warm at the same time, difficult to work with and to bend in the way you want it to, but once you get there, it’s really rewarding. For several years now I’ve looked at it differently and try to see it as a living substance that I can enhance with colour and use different techniques with. I was given a label as only using recycled materials but I’ve broken away from that towards new materials but I still work in the same way. The main thing is that I’m now free to choose my own colours. I’m using a lot of chrome at the moment and have created a colour palate that I try to stick to.

How are you contributing to the development of the African design industry?

I am currently working on creating a design school here in Senegal. It’s such a shame that we’ve never had a design school here when we have all this potential; all these young people who want to move forwards and create. Some have been lucky enough to go abroad to study, but for the majority that's not an option and there is certainly no solution here. So that’s what I’ll change. I’ll provide an education, establish a permanent institution that will allow young Senegalese people but also young people from elsewhere, to train and then to be able to apply what they have learnt in their daily lives. How can we grow and develop when 95% of what we consume comes from abroad? We must create here, produce here, put in place the structures and the right tools to help us achieve this. Design plays a role at all levels of our economic and social structures, it’s truly essential and surely a future profession which will allow us to share our aesthetic vision as widely as possible. In any case, that’s my dream and I’m fighting every day for it to become a reality.

Ousmane Mbaye

Ousmane Mbaye, photography by Joana Choumali. 

Where are your clients mostly based? Does your furniture appeal to the African market?

My clients are fairly international. I started off in Belgium, France, Spain and Italy but have also exhibited in New York and in galleries in Japan. But my greatest pleasure is to have had the chance to exhibit my work in Africa: Benin, Nigeria, South Africa and the Ivory Coast, despite the issues that can get in the way (transport issues, customs fees…), it is always a pleasure for me to share my work on the continent and to have African customers. I’ve discovered that African customers are much more demanding about finish and details which has forced me to make progress with my work and for which I’m extremely grateful.

What do you think makes Africa’s design industry unique?

I don’t think it is unique, it’s rather poor or at least there’s not enough of it. My dream is to change that.

How important do you see the creative industry in terms of changing perceptions of Africa?

When the creative industry is actually put in place and when the states understand that it can drive development, it has the potential to solve many problems, including poverty. And that will change global perceptions of Africa. 

Find out more about Ousmane and look through his creative work on his website.