Afropolitan furniture: When Spanish antiques get an African identity and feminine touch Thursday 25 September, 2014

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What does a chemist and a television journalist have to with furniture design? At Live Unchained, we love people who forge novel paths, especially when these paths are not only new because of what they create, but also when they’re untried career and artistic trajectories in the lives of the people who tread them. It […]

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What does a chemist and a television journalist have to with furniture design?

At Live Unchained, we love people who forge novel paths, especially when these paths are not only new because of what they create, but also when they’re untried career and artistic trajectories in the lives of the people who tread them. It takes a lot of courage to do that, to trust yourself and the unknown, marching ahead.

Meet Elas. A furniture design company that takes antique Spanish pieces of furniture, reinvents, and “Africanizes them.” Started by a pair of Spanish-African friends, Berta (chemist) and Lucia (T.V. journalist), the venture is a celebration of their multicultural identities and more importantly, a recognition of it. Because of Spain’s relatively small population of people of African descent, it’s an ethnic and cultural subset that is often forgotten, if at all acknowledged. And this is where Berta and Lucia come in. Straddling the African and the Spanish, they created a brand that reflects both facets of their identity in pieces of furniture that are uniquely beautiful. An example: an antique Spanish chair is rejuvenated with African-influenced patterned fabric and given a name inspired by the Spanish epic, Don Quixote.

More than being a melding of two cultures, Elas is also a testimony to female empowerment, the filling of socio-cultural gaps by women who dare to do. In this interview, we speak with Lucia about the origins of the brand, why it’s named Elas, and what it means to live unchained.

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Lucia & Berta, founders of ELAS.

How did you and Berta come to work together?

Berta and I have known each other since we were small. Now, we both live in Spain. Our families are both from Ecuatorial Guinea and we belong to the same tribe fang: Nzomo, which means “intrepid.” We have both been intrepid since starting “ELAS,” coming from worlds far away from design. Berta is a chemist and I am a television journalist. We’re both continuing our professions, but decided we want to explore other areas.

What is unique about what your brand, “Elas” offers?

Just the touch of which we spoke of before: Our mestizo identity. We are Spanish, originating in Equatorial Guinea (the only country in Africa where Spanish is spoken). And so, our furniture design can be described as “deeply Spanish.” Elas has antique pieces dating back to the 20th century, some 50, 70 and more years ago. But, Elas reinterprets, rejuvenates and Africanizes them.

Some African-patterned fabric used by ELAS

Some African-patterned fabric used by ELAS

Where did the name, “Elas,” come from?

Elas means “Ellas” or the feminine form of “them” in Portuguese. Both my partner and I have lived in Portugal and we really like the country and its language. We chose the name Elas for our brand because, despite the fact that the furniture that we make is for all, men and women, behind the company there are two females!

What has the Elas reception been like? Why do people like to invest in your designer chairs?

Well, these chairs are unique and exclusive, not chairs made in series in a workshop. They are antiques that reflect different points of Spain with a history behind them, in addition to a wood that has endured perfectly over the years for its excellent quality. On the other hand, the fabric, colors, convert them into something completely different. They have a classic cut, but are very fun. They are more discrete, such as the armachairs’ black cloth with wax golden African. By the way, these are called Sancho, such as the companion of Don Quixote de La Mancha, and are bolder as our Rocinante (the horse that Don Quixote rode upon) that has an explosion of color. As you can see, the names that we have made the furnishings are from one of the great and universal works of Spanish literature: Don Quijote de la Mancha. The wheelchair star, which also gives its name to the collection is Dulcinea, was the love of Don Quixote. This antique daybed dates back to the 30s, with fuchsia cloth and pistachio.

You’ve said: “We have wanted to show a different Spain, a Spain where the African and not only a part, but that perfectly fits.” Can you say more about what this means to you?

I think being black or biracial in Spain means, for some of us, we are constantly seeking our identity. The reality is that what we live has little to do with the black descendants of the French, English, Portuguese or Americans, for example. Basically, as a group, blacks in Spain are a very small population and lack respect and recognition as national in our own country (also as a matter of quantity). Seeking ourselves, Berta and I went to live and work a season for the country of our parents and there we discovered that we are not there. We are the product of the two sites, we are both and that enriches us.

I always think of the book “Killer Identities” of Amin Maalouf, Lebanese, french, Christian … His reading invites you to not box yourself in. No human being is only one thing. However, what happens is that, when we believe that any of our facets is threatened, we tend to project it on to “the other.” Travel, research and reading has helped us see that, like all human beings, we are wealthy to be many things, in our case, women, European, African.

How can we buy the chairs?! Are you taking international orders?

We’ll start in a popular physical store in the Salamanca area of Madrid and in October. We will sell online soon. We want ELAS to reach every corner of the world. For now, you can learn more about ELAS at our Facebook page.

What does living unchained mean to you?

It is something vital. It is to have all the help that we need at the touch of a click. All of us together, to see that it is possible that we are more black women, more active than we believe. It is to have hope and encouragement to continue creating and growing. It is … a lot. From my personal point of view, it is also a joy to see how this project is growing. I remember when it began and, now, years later, it is a large network that continues to increase!

This interview has been edited for clarity.

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Written by Kathryn Buford and Nesrien Hamid.

 

 

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3 Comments

  • Denzogaied says:

    Полиция Даррен Уилсон 10 августа застрелил 18-летнего Майкла Брауна в Фергюсоне. Потом происшествия в городе скольконибудь дней продолжались мятеж, скольконибудь жителей пострадали в столкновениях с полицией. МОСКВА, 28 сен – РИА Новости. Полиция получил огнестрельное ранение в американском городе Фергюсоне, где с августа проходят бунт впоследствии того, будто товарищ правоохранительных органов застрелил чернокожего подростка Майкла Брауна, передает в день телеканал CNN со ссылкой для представителя местных правоохранительных органов Брайана Шеллмана. Полицейским Фергюсона запретили перемещать браслеты в поддержку коллеги Сообразно данным телеканала, полиция выжил после нападения. Другая информация касательно данного инцидента пока не приводится. Ранее сообщалось, что в Фергюсоне вновь вспыхнули возмущение, в результате которых были арестованы по меньшей мере пять человек. Полиция Даррен Уилсон 10 августа застрелил 18-летнего Майкла Брауна в Фергюсоне. Потом происшествия в городе несколько дней продолжались мятеж, маломальски жителей пострадали в столкновениях с полицией, которая применяла слезоточивый газ и резиновые пули чтобы разгона толпы.
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  • Social2017 says:

    this post is really likeable for me, thanks for bringing it in front of us


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