Asanka Coffee Table
Chrissa Amuah and AMWA Designs
Stories Told through Shapes and Materials
Amuah brings her heritage into the current moment through form and materials in the Asanka Coffee Table. The jesmonite bowl at the top of the cylindrical table references the “Asanka,” a traditional clay bowl used to grind and blend ingredients across West Africa, including in Amuah’s home country of Ghana.
Amuah created the wooden base of the table by stacking a series of flat circle plates. This construction was inspired by the Adinkra symbol “Adinkrahene.” Adinkra are symbols from Ghana that represent concepts or aphorisms, and they’re often used in fabrics, pottery, and architecture. The symbol Adinkrahene is formed by a series of circles. It’s regarded as the most important symbol and is typically translated into English as “King of the Adinkra symbols.”
The colors of the base reference the red laterite soil and timber of Ghana’s landscape.
Each of the tables is unique, thanks to the design and production method. The application of platforms integrates randomness because the circular plates are stacked irregularly and without a rigid structure. Moreover, the tables are made by hand. The uniqueness of each table remains fully visible through a glass tabletop. Amuah talks about the inclusion of this and other cultural references in an interview in Metropolis magazine. She says, “When I was starting, I was hesitant. I thought ‘Is it too Black for them?’” But she wanted to use her designs to tell stories and overcome differences. She continues, “you have to get over those thoughts. If the message is good and the visuals are strong, [design] crosses barriers.”
You can hear more from Amuah on her active Instagram account.
Asanka Coffee Table at M21D
M21D recognizes the value of making objects that reference the communal history of those who use them and, moreover, the importance of sharing histories across cultures through design. The museum considered the Asanka Coffee Table’s interplay of materials and shapes with rituals as reason enough for additional research.