Nifemi Ogunro

After studying product design at Appalachian State University, the Lyon-born, Nigerian-American designer moved to Brooklyn and quickly became a fixture on the scene, first in a Superhouse show late last year and more recently in Marta’s new Under / Over exhibition. We were struck by the sophistication of her so-called “functional sculptures,” which combine simplicity with small but welcome doses of oddness — a stool with a bisected seat, a maroon bookshelf with a rough stucco finish, a buttercream form that’s somewhere between a bone and a log. Consider us intrigued.

What is American design to you, and what excites you about it?

Because American design doesn’t account for all of the country’s moving parts, I find it difficult to define. The widely known tale of design, creation, and discovery is Eurocentric, yielding a monolithic representation of what can even be called “true design.” The very configuration of the United States was built to preserve as much power and dominance for those of European descent, yet American society itself is not homogeneous. Despite this, there is so much about the future of American design that excites me, specifically within Black design. The reimagining of what constitutes Black design, the shifting of narratives, and artists’ ability to share their stories and experience to help ensure a better future are all things that spark both hope and joy for me.

What are your plans and highlights for the upcoming year?

For a long time design was an escape for me. I would doodle sloppy sketches in meetings and fantasize about having enough knowledge to materialize these ideas. There’s something liberating about living in the imagination. Anything is possible. There’s an innocence that’s left unscathed because it has never been at odds with reality. For the upcoming year, I want to have enough time to ideate and enjoy the process of making as though it’s something I’m unearthing for the first time.

What inspires or informs your work in general?

There are endless designers, artists, musicians, and authors that articulate the themes I explore in my practice in beautiful ways, but personal experiences and the things I observe in everyday life inform my work. The only narrative I feel confident in telling is my own. The root of my work is to reimagine the way we traditionally engage with objects, question what spaces deserve beauty, and challenge the assumptions we place around functionality.
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