Meet the Makers

Yoruba chair makers

Tuule and Ambbhe from Nigeria are two of the most experienced makers of the beautiful beaded Yoruba chairs. Their level of craftsmanship is incredible, painstakingly threading thousands upon thousands of tiny glass, seed beads onto canvas and sacking, which is then stitched and glued on to a willow wooden frame.

Ambbhe draws up the designs that inspire him. He says there are definitely trends… florals, animal symbolism and geometric patterns to signify the interconnection of all life and the flow of the natural world.

He has been making chairs for over 15 years and his work supports his entire family. Working with beads in this traditional way, is always carried out by men in the Yoruba tribe, unlike in East Africa, where the women do the beadwork.

Tuule is also a senior beader, who crafts the main back and seat of the chairs. The arms are usually given to the younger beaders to begin on, as the patterns are simpler to follow. It could take a team of about six men to put together a pair of chairs over three months. Nowadays the demand for these chairs has increased so younger men are being trained in the art, from school leaving age 16 and up-wards.

When I visited their workshops in August 2018 I met many of the artisans and was taught how to construct the beadwork onto the frame…very tough on the fingers… I will be taking them thimbles when I go back!


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