Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
1996 - Present (25 years)
Ouattara is one of the shining stars of a new generation of designers in Africa who aren’t steeped in European aesthetic traditions, but who have found their inspiration and their own way of doing things by looking at the immediate world around them. He makes his furniture out of the cast-off materials that come to hand – mostly old oil barrels that he shapes and hammers himself. In Burkina Faso, Ouattara has to do without many of the things western designers take for granted – constant energy supplies, ready-made instruments and equipment. The electricity is often down for hours at a time and he has to fabricate his own hinges, nails and tools. He designs not with an eye on the tastes of smart gallerists in the west (though they seem to love his work), but with the desire to meet the needs of his fellow Africans, making their lives not just easier in the practical sense but also culturally richer and, critically, “plus belles”. He sees his pieces as a “modern African design luxury”.