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Art: Vintage Yoruba Beaded Chairs

Yoruba Beaded Chairs [Nigeria]


[Image source: Pair of Yoruba Beaded Chairs via If the Lampshade Fits]

Shabby Chic® refers to objects that have made it through the years, passed through from generation to generation and despite looking a little worn around the edges, exude a familiar comforting feeling cloaked with an air of faded grandeur and elegance but are still well-loved, appreciated for where they have come from and the stories they tell, this is often seen with family heirlooms as well as newer items that have purposely been distressed to achieve the look and feel. Shabby Chic® originated in the 1980s when British designer Rachel Ashwell, used the words to describe her brand of style and interior decoration, setting up a business with the same name. Rachel went on to trademark the two words for sole use, so although the words have slipped into interior design speak when describing a particular style, they officially can not be used to describe any other product or style than that of the official Shabby Chic® range.

The phrase did come to mind though when I laid eyes on some colourful and elaborately beaded chairs that I discovered originated from Yoruba artisans in Nigeria. From the floral and symbolic imagery to the traditional skill required to produce each creation and how they can bring character to contemporary interiors, when I saw the chairs I was reminded of the Suzani embroidered textiles of Central Asia, an ancient art form that has witnessed a revival, growing in popularity in recent years. Rich in intricate beading detail that must have take ages to complete, the level of craftsmanship is incredible; thousands upon thousands of tiny seed glass beads are painstakingly applied to fabric covers which are then stitched or glued onto the chair frame, which can made from materials like wood or rattan, resulting in an entire chair covered with the beading. It was common practice for the fronts and tops of the arms to be beaded more elaborately than the backs, I guess because of prolonged visibility of the front. Some chairs can be traced back to the 1920’s and were traditionally created for the Yoruba Kings and Queens; covered in symbols laden with meaning denoting things like wealth, power, strength and wisdom; in addition to having spiritual significance. 

Yoruba Beaded Chairs
Blue Beaded Yoruba Chair - 1stDibs

[Image credits: top, Large Yoruba Beaded Chairs – From the Tribe;
bottom, Blue Beaded Yoruba Chair – 1stDibs]

Truly special works of art, the Yoruba Beaded Chairs are a great source of inspiration and have appeared in many stylish interiors across the globe, and my research also reveals the art form is also seen in Cameroon. Aside from belonging to a family, today the chairs are quite rare finds and tend be found through specialist dealers and auctioneer houses. …this is vintage Africa at its finest Additional information sourced from:

Additional details:
Prices for the chairs vary, the ones available on From the Tribe cost in the region of: £950-£2000 for a set of four

A limited-edition of chairs are available to purchase on From the Tribe:

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