British-Ghanaian Designer Giles Tettey Nartey Reimagines Fufu Preparation with Monumental Communal Table

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British-Ghanaian designer, researcher, and architect Giles Tettey Nartey has unveiled a groundbreaking piece that reimagines the traditional West African practice of making fufu. Nartey’s monumental communal pounding table, crafted from American maple, is an intricate fusion of art and utility, designed to transform the everyday act of preparing fufu into a profound communal ritual.

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“Communion” by Giles Tettey Nartey, photographed by Christian Cassiel

Fufu, a staple dish in West Africa, is made by pounding boiled cassava and plantain into a dough, which is then formed into parcels reminiscent of dumplings. Traditionally, this process is a communal activity, symbolizing unity and collaboration. Nartey’s design encapsulates this essence with a central serving table surrounded by five workstations, each incorporating an oversized pestle (woma) and mortar (woduro). These workstations are complemented by three-legged stools modeled after those made by the Ashanti people of Ghana. Carved bowls and indentations in the table’s surface hold the ingredients and water needed for the preparation, allowing for a seamless, interactive experience.

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“Communion” by Giles Tettey Nartey, photographed by Christian Cassiel

“The practice of one person pounding and another kneading the mixture is a dialogue, a beautiful interplay that is both practical and musical,” Nartey explained. “By bringing this into a new light, I feel a responsibility to highlight West African ways of living as something sacred and relevant.”

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“Communion” by Giles Tettey Nartey, photographed by Christian Cassiel

Nartey’s innovative table was prominently exhibited at Milan Design Week, commissioned by the American Hardwood Export Council and showcased at the Triennale. Manufactured with the expertise of London furniture maker Jan Hendzel Studio, the entire setup spans nearly four meters in diameter. The black stain coating the table is a nod to the Ashanti tradition of “blackening” stools to honor the deceased, symbolizing loss and rebirth. This reflective design element underscores Nartey’s aim to elevate everyday acts into significant, almost spiritual experiences.

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“Communion” by Giles Tettey Nartey, photographed by Christian Cassiel

This project is the latest in Nartey’s exploration of domestic rituals in Ghana from a diasporic perspective. His work seeks to transform quotidian activities, such as making fufu or playing traditional games, into revered cultural practices. “These everyday acts are what bring us together and are often what we remember most when away from home,” he said. “Reimagining them as something more weighty and sacred transcends their practicality.”

Nartey’s communal pounding table is not just a piece of furniture; it is a cultural artifact that invites a broader audience to appreciate and engage with West African traditions. Through his work, Nartey continues to bridge the gap between his British upbringing and Ghanaian heritage, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of his cultural roots.

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