Thursday, 4 October 2012

Tasty 1960s and 70s tiles in Mali

Very pleased to be able to share these images of a fantastic tiled house, totally seventies, or maybe late sixties, in Mali west Africa.

The come thanks to my journalist/photographer friend Rose Skelton, who I've mentioned before (including yesterday, when I featured her mum's revamped armchair).

Rose and I met in the UK, when we used to rent desks next to each other in a falling-down building in the lovely Victorian warehouse/mews in southeast London (it's called Iliffe Yard, and there are lots of artists and makers there – and their Christmas fair is coming up soon, well worth it even if you only buy a cup of mulled wine and a barbecued sausage).

But back to Rose: she now lives in Dakar, Senegal, and has just about the most exciting life of anyone I know. If she's not learning banjo in Kentucky, she's caught up in west African coups, or interviewing eccentric musicians and making beautiful things out of local colourful fabrics (I've featured one of her completely brilliant Obama cushions before, below).

Anyway, while she was recently in Mali – despite being in the middle of a rather terrifying situation – she found time to send me some snaps of the incredible tiled house she was staying in, as we share a love of 60s and 70s interiors and she knew I'd love it. (I now want to live in an entirely tiled house. In a hot country. In the 1970s.) Anyway... so I asked Rose to share them here, with a little background...

"While I was in Bamako covering the fall-out from a coup d'etat, I was invited to stay with a friend of a friend, Aline, who lived in a small villa on a muddy street in which police sat guarding the Mauritanian embassy next door, smoking under a lean-to, hiding from the sun.

"Immediately I noticed the tiles on the covered terrace which ran alongside the house, where we sat to have our breakfast in the morning (image at the top of this post). They were a simple orange and turquoise, a lovely bright way to enter a home. Aline's breakfast table was made from an old metal sign which a local metal-worker had welded into a table.



"The living room (above) had very high ceilings with ceiling fans and big metal-framed doors, which so many houses built in that era – the 1960s I think – in west Africa have, from French influence, but which have become scarce over time as people re-build their houses using the more cheaply-available local wood. The tiles were a fabulous browny-red, shiny and cool, lovely to walk on in bare feet after a day out reporting on the dusty streets. She had bought some beautiful west African wax cloths and made cushions which matched the 70s-style, locally hand-made wood furniture. Colourful green Mauritanian veils – the kind women wrap themselves up in from head to toe- made for lovely floaty curtains.

"But the real beauty of the house was the floor tiling; every room had a different colour and pattern scheme which didn't really match with the next, making each room a new adventure in retro tiling. Someone somewhere had built this house with imported European tiles, and no one had yet thought to rip them out to modernise. It seems unlikely that they were designed to be this way- it was probably all that was available- but half a century on, the effect was a wonderful throwback to another time (above) In one of the spare rooms, the tiles had wheat-sheafs and flowers, and a stylised flower motif in orange which reminded me of the ceramic coffee pots I find in car boot sales and charity shops when I go to visit my granny in Kent. Here it was, cool and clean, for me to wander in on in my bare feet.

"The hallway tiles (above) had the odd flower motif, mixed in with creams, browns, reds and blues, and led to the best room of the house, the guest bathroom (below). The wide, solid, pearly brown ceramic wash basin, the shelf above which both holds everything it needs to hold (I sell a similarly retro yellow washbag at my shop, Rose Repose), and the mirror frame with such a satisfying shape, wide, rounded edges, and a circular mirror glass in the middle. The whole ensemble was a lovely way to wake up in the morning. The bath was missing some of its essentials (a working shower attachment) but that's nothing new in these parts. Just sitting under the cool jet of water in such a wide and solid piece of bath, those fabulous coffee-pot orange and brown tiles, was enough. 

"The toilet brush holder, below – made into a feature! – made up for the missing parts of the toilet (the seat) and the paper holder (below, bottom image), well, why don't you see these anymore? The whole bathroom experience was a delight, form over function in most cases, but again, that's nothing new in west Africa where things are so often retro without meaning to be, slightly broken, but you can make do and just enjoy the visual experience. 


"Going out the back of the house (below) and towards the swimming pool, you are met again with more fabulous tiles, and the colourful plastic and metal woven chairs so popular in Mali and sold along every roadside, and then the swimming pool with its little covered deck for sunbathing. 

"Check out those sunbed cushions (below)! To top it all off, an inflatable baby float still in its 1970s box sat forgotten to one side, proving that nothing in this house was put there to look the part. This is all hangover from another time, neglected by some owner and then cherished and brought to life by the lovely hospitable and stylish Aline."

If you'd like to buy some of Rose's lovely handmade throws, cushion covers and more, check out her Facebook page, Rose Repose

1 comment:

  1. The hallway is my favourite image, love the way that she has just let the tiles do the talking.

    ReplyDelete

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