A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

African Inspired Decorating: An African Home for the Holidays
By Lola Jackson

As we dress daily, so can we dress our homes in African style which invites many designs from the continent.

As I spoke to many people of African descent who have migrated to the Diaspora , many of them first generation, everyone agrees an African inspired home is a regal spirited home.

To begin a journey towards an African inspired home it is best to think broadly. African fabric can be used everywhere. It can be used to frame pictures, cover chairs, pillows, and even lampshades.  Cover, cover, cover - with the rich cloths from the plentiful countries that make-up the Motherland.

Kente means woven, a cloth worn by Ashanti people of Ghana.  It is a royal and sacred cloth worn only in times of extreme importance. Kente was the cloths of Kings and Queens. Overtime the use of Kente became more widespread; Kente to date is held in high esteem.  When a King and Queen depart on the journey towards an African inspired home, tradition can be an enlightening experience. There are many style initiators that symbolize African culture.  A mud cloth throw can be hung on the wall as a work of art. Front doors that open to Harlem Brownstones can be seen more often made of African carvings. These doors tell stories of birth, to harvest, to regal celebrations to name a few. It can be said an African door opens the path to our dreams for it bridges a window from past to present.

In African decorating, the emphasis is said to be on nature and life. Subtle decorations like character faced light switches also personalize the home. Vibrant color is also reflective of the culture. Orange, olive, brown as well as black seem to be subtle entrances into mainstream decorating. Any images of the sun and moon create harmony. Water fountains and chimes symbolize fluidity or movement which is life. Incense and oils burning around the home create a positive aura.

Pictures of Jazz artists like Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and Miles Davis to name a few create a timeline that made history during the Harlem Renaissance. There is a style of artist photographs onto wood that ranges in small to poster size. This style of portrait is done in black and white as well as color. This is an excellent permanent portrait with no framing needed. Family portraits in black and white also represent periods of time with family in mind. These pictures placed strategically around on tables, walls, and landings take the guest on a tour of you.

African Mask, sculpture, and figurines can bring about strong personification of African people as their images echo life in the home. These figures are so lifelike that some say they feel the passion of the Artist in the figures. Many figures are symbolic of stages in human life. The bearer of these figures may have an audience of ancestors in their midst. Lest we not forget the figurines of the post slavery period that represent the grinning blacks with red lips. Some are embarrassed by these images yet some feel them to be collector items that must not be forgotten.

As we dress ourselves daily, so can we dress, design, and entertain ideas that demonstrate you. An African inspired home can be a way to represent you in many ways. The lessons from the continent not only represent pain that all too often holler loud in our ears, but more importantly lessons that represent love, strength, vitality, and life. The African home is thus a mirror of life with rich color, fabric, figurines, and photos of images of our vast heritage. As we dress ourselves daily, let us dress our homes in style that says I am African and Proud.

Place to shop for African decorating:

The MART @ 116 street between Malcolm X Blvd and 5th avenues. This area is characterized by numerous booths with everything from fabrics, to incense to jewelry and figurines. It is worth a look!