Introducing Abidjan’s Newest Interior Design Atelier

In conversation with the multi-faceted artist, entrepreneur, model, and interior designer behind the Ivorian atelier, Sartai.
Words:
Audrey Lang

S A R A Ï  is the multi-faceted artist, entrepreneur, model, and interior designer behind the Ivory Coast based atelier, Sartai. Her story is one comprised of both following her heart and living with no limits. A hustler with a genuine personality to match, she’s ventured all over Africa and affirms she’s always been drawn to art: dancing, drawing, painting. Her latest passion project is an atelier set on enhancing one space at a time.  

In a conversation about interior designing in Ivory Coast, Sarai candidly speaks about projects she has worked on, inspiration, and what doing such work means in Western Africa.

"I think that we have reached a period where Africans, in general, can claim their identities, cultural richness and diversity: whether in speech, in style or, environment."

How do you decide what designs to implement?

When wall painting or interior decorating, everything depends on the expectations of the customer. Some prefer to stay sober, where others want more vivid colors and motifs. When a customer doesn’t know what he or she wants, we try to replicate his or her identity. We then rely on adjectives or terms that best define their universe. From there, we materialize an adapted concept.

What elements define your style?

Origin, culture, and symbols derived from our history.

What is most challenging about design?

I would say precision. What makes an artist different from another is both the finish and precision you put into your work. Wall decoration is very different from basic painting. Everything must be done in a delicate and careful manner. It takes a lot of patience.

Favorite project you have done thus far?

All the projects I have worked on have their nuances. From the first mural project to the latest, which was more focused on interior design. I love them all as they have all been satisfying. I consider all these projects as part of a learning process.

Are there any designers you look to for inspiration?

I immediately think of the great Malian fashion designer at the origin of the modernization of bogolanfini textile: Chris Seydou. I have always been fascinated by the concept of transcribing wax patterns, especially symbols on walls.

Then, I would say the women of Tiébélé in Burkina Faso. Every year after the rainy season, these women create the painted decor of their homes. Each of the signs used have special meanings; the motifs are symbolic. It is a collective know-how passed from mother to daughter revealing the extreme richness of kassena architecture.

Where do you look for inspiration?  

Reality. All that is raw and naked. There is nothing more beautiful than that which we do not try to hide or embellish.

What is interior designing like in “Babi” ~ Abidjan, Ivory Coast?

Colorful, sober, aztec, and wax patterned. The influence of these trends can be found in much of our decorations whether in restaurants, hotels or concepts stores. Ivorians need change!

Major initiatives have recently been organized to promote and enhance this sector of activities including furniture, interior and exterior design, painting, lighting, and many other areas. There are training schools in architecture and interior design. It is a domain so vast there is more to explore.

Any thoughts on designing for Africa?

I think that we have reached a period where Africans, in general, can claim their identities, cultural richness and diversity: whether in speech, in style or, environment.

Africa is so versatile in its textures, colors and art that it is very easy to incorporate into design. You can go from a sober and minimalist world to a more atypical and artisanal one.

We certainly have a way to go, but I find our identity already well defined and imposing.

You can find S A R A Ï and her design studio Sartai on Instagram. This interview has been translated from French to English and edited for length and clarity.