Artist and activist Malene Barnett describes her work as “rooted in charting the path of the diasporic experience, from West Africa to the Caribbean to the United States.” In the past, she’s done this through mediums such as ceramics, paintings, tapestries, and more. But as of now, you can explore Barnett’s work in yet another way: On Sept. 27, she launched the Kindred Collection with home brand Lulu and Georgia, a line of wallpaper that she says is “a continuation of sorts, of that story.”
The collaboration, though is connected to Barnett’s work in more ways than one. As she tells it, the new wallcoverings are actually directly inspired by a series of hand-built ceramic vessels she’s created. “The vessels, all etched freehand in my studio in Brooklyn, pay homage to the traditional hand-building techniques found in the Yorubaland region of southwestern Nigeria,” she tells TZR.
As for why Barnett chose to explore wallpaper? According to her, it came from a desire to inspire people to incorporate different textures into their spaces. “My experience working with textiles and ceramics has always been multidimensional,” she explains. “I never look at fabric as a flat surface, and I always bring three-dimensional elements to enhance the details. It's the same philosophy I use when designing wallpaper or even working with clay. For this collection, I wanted the wallcoverings to be tactile, so when you come close to the surface, you feel connected — not just to the patterns but also to the materials.”
What resulted was a collection that tells stories through their details. “For instance, the Alaari Wallpaper reinterprets my ‘Folded’ sculpture from the Redemption collection. I love how the earthy terracotta hues reference Alaari, a red-dyed cloth significant to Yoruba beliefs,” says Barnett. And, there’s her favorite, the Mosaic — which she says is takes inspiration from the broken patterns of tile found in outdoor spaces in West Africa and the Caribbean. “I also see it as a metaphor of the African diaspora experience. The dispersal of a community around the world, but connected through shared culture and traditions.”
“I channel the legacies of renowned artists and the communities of makers who came before me,” Barnett continues. “And I appreciate that this collection encourages people to connect with these experiences and bring them into their own homes.” Shop it now on Lulu and Georgia’s site, or in the preview, ahead.
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