Mr. Napoleon invaded Egypt and left with the Sphinx’s nose. Fair play Bonaparte, but we wish he had bona-departed with something else, like, for example, the vast amounts of Rococo furniture that now plagues 75% of all Egyptian salons. In the Palace of Versailles, it works. In a decrepit 8th floor apartment in Masaken Sheraton, late Baroque golden furniture is a bit 19-hundred-and-late.
Enter the founder of Block B Furniture, Ahmed Abuzaid, like a young Egyptian Warhol of antique furniture, a vi-chair-lante, whisping through your living room armed with fantastical varieties of upholstery and a pantone chart that would make Skittles blush, to change the way Egyptians relate with their furniture.
“I moved to Cairo, and everyone’s accidental super kitsch taste in furniture inspired me to start a super kitsch brand to make fun of it all. Like a giant middle finger to furniture in the Middle East. After the first two pieces, however, everything I made turned out to be more conceptual than just kitsch for the sake of kitsch,” Abuzaid regails on how Block B got started. His pieces are manufactured in Damietta, a place he hopes to draw attention to, “I’d like to support the industry there. There’s so much talent that I think is wasted on either export only or replicating newlyweds’ grandparents’ furniture.”
Block B Furniture’s ethos is to provide an alternative in furniture and help further acquaint Middle Eastern homes with couture but the idea of fusing antique with contemporary, Oriental with pop, isn’t particularly a new one here. “It’s about drawing inspiration from our own environment rather than just looking west-wards,” Abuzaid says on where Block B stand out from the crowd. “And I don’t mean having a calligraphy print or a picture of Om Kalthoum, it’s more subtle than that, more alternative and aggressive, even sexual. The materials used as well make for really interesting mixes and concepts. Comfort is not what I’m selling here. These are token pieces, centerpieces for a space."
Like any artistian, there seems to be a special relationship between the created and the creator and when we met Abuzaid at his latest exhibition at downtown art space Vent, he spoke of each chair as if a living breathing organism with a life and inspiration all of its own. Take this funky piece:
“I call it The Beams Chair. It really is for me what Cairo feels like. First of all it’s one big party. The yellow paint is like when a beautiful building from the 30s or something is painted over in pink or yellow with complete disregard for its origin or the intention of its maker. And those black bits are meant as light beams in the silk fabric, in negative. The coloured pins are the entire positive: all the city lights, the bars, the warm lights from windows, the boats…”
We’re sold. Go give your bum some art to sit on from the king of kitsch.