Types of Traditional African Furniture – Chairs and Seating Ideas

Types of Traditional African Furniture - Chairs and seating

African furniture is known for its unique designs, cultural significance, and functional purposes. When it comes to seating options, traditional African furniture showcases a diverse range of styles and materials.

In this article, we will explore the various types of traditional African furniture, focusing specifically on chairs and seating ideas. From low stools to elaborate throne chairs, these pieces are not only functional but also add a touch of culture and authenticity to home decor.

Key Takeaways:

  • Traditional African furniture is known for its unique designs and cultural significance
  • African chairs and seating options showcase a diverse range of styles and materials
  • From low stools to elaborate throne chairs, traditional African furniture adds a touch of culture and authenticity to home decor

African Chair Styles

Traditional African furniture is known for its unique and distinct designs, especially when it comes to chairs. African chair styles offer a wide range of choices from different materials and designs, each carrying their own cultural significance.

One popular African chair style is the Xhosa chair. Made from wood and leather, these chairs are often intricately carved and decorated with patterns, representing the cultural heritage of the Xhosa people.

African Chair Styles Description
Zulu Chairs Low-to-the-ground chairs with leather or woven seats, often embellished with intricate beadwork.
Tuareg Chairs Low-to-the-ground chairs with simple wood frames and woven leather seats, traditionally used by Tuareg nomads in the Sahara desert.
Bamileke Chairs Elaborately carved wooden chairs with round or oval seats, representing the royalty and power of the Bamileke tribe in Cameroon.

Another popular African chair style is the Akan chair. These chairs feature intricate carvings and are often made from high-quality wood, such as mahogany or teak. Akan chairs are typically used in traditional ceremonies and have significant cultural importance.

Overall, African chair styles are diverse and reflect the unique cultural heritage and artistic traditions of various tribes and communities across the continent.

Traditional African Seating

Seating in African homes is not limited to chairs and sofas. Traditional African seating options also include low stools, floor cushions, and communal seating arrangements. These seating options are not only practical but also hold cultural significance in African decor and interior design.

Low stools are a common feature in African homes. They are typically small and portable, making them easy to move around the house. Low stools are used for a variety of purposes, such as providing additional seating or serving as a small table for food and drinks. In some African cultures, low stools are also used as a symbol of respect and hospitality. They are often offered to guests as a sign of welcome.

Floor cushions are another popular seating option in African decor. They provide a comfortable and relaxed seating experience, ideal for casual gatherings or lounging. Floor cushions come in various shapes and sizes, with some featuring intricate embroidery or beadwork. They are perfect for creating a cozy and welcoming atmosphere in any room.

Communal seating arrangements are also commonly found in African homes. They typically consist of a large, low platform with cushions or mats arranged around it. This type of seating is ideal for social gatherings and family events, as it encourages interaction and conversation among guests.

Traditional African seating options add a unique touch to any home decor. They are not only functional but also showcase the cultural richness and authenticity of African design. Incorporating these seating options into your home can create a warm and inviting atmosphere, perfect for entertaining guests and relaxing with family.

Adinkra Symbol Chairs

Adinkra symbol chairs are a unique type of traditional African chair design originating from Ghana. These chairs showcase the artistic and cultural value of Adinkra symbols, which are an important part of Ghanaian culture. Adinkra symbols are visual representations of concepts and beliefs and are used to convey messages and wisdom. They are often found in textiles, pottery, and architecture, and are now also used on furniture.

The Adinkra symbol chairs are typically made of wood and are adorned with intricate carvings of various Adinkra symbols. These symbols are often associated with proverbs, which are meant to convey wisdom and advice. For example, the “Gye Nyame” symbol, which means “except for God,” is often used to remind people to have faith and trust in a higher power.

The Adinkra symbol chairs are often used as decorative pieces in Ghanaian homes and can also serve as functional seating options. They are popular among collectors and are often displayed in museums and galleries around the world.

The craftsmanship involved in creating Adinkra symbol chairs is impressive, and the process can take several weeks or even months to complete. The wood is carefully selected and carved into the desired shape, with the Adinkra symbols being added as the finishing touch.

Adinkra symbol chairs serve as a testament to Ghanaian culture and the power of visual storytelling. They are a beautiful and functional addition to any home, and a great way to incorporate African design into your decor.

Ashanti Throne Chairs

Ashanti throne chairs are a symbol of power and royalty in African culture. These chairs are intricately designed to reflect the status and wealth of the person who sits in them. Made using local materials, such as wood and leather, and adorned with gold or brass, these chairs are often passed down as family heirlooms.

Symbolism and Design

Ashanti throne chairs are designed with various symbols that represent different aspects of the Ashanti people’s beliefs and traditions. The chairs feature intricate carvings of animals like lions and elephants, which symbolize strength and power. They also have motifs and Adinkra symbols that represent concepts such as unity, knowledge, and protection.

The chairs’ design is a reflection of the Ashanti people’s artistic flair and craftsmanship. The intricate carvings and details on the chairs are a testament to their traditional skills, which have been passed down from generation to generation.

Materials Used

The materials used to make Ashanti throne chairs are typically sourced locally. Wood, such as mahogany and ebony, is the most common material used for the frame. The chairs are then decorated with brass or gold-plated embellishments, which give them their characteristic regal appearance.

Leather is also often used to upholster the chairs, providing comfort and enhancing their aesthetic appeal. The leather is often decorated with intricate stitching or embossing, adding to the chair’s overall intricate design.

Cultural Significance

Ashanti throne chairs are integral to Ashanti culture and have been used in various ceremonial occasions. They have also been used as seats for the Ashanti king and other important members of the community. The chairs’ design and symbolism reflect the Ashanti people’s culture and traditions, making them an essential part of their heritage.

Ashanti throne chairs remain popular among collectors and enthusiasts of African furniture, not only for their cultural significance but also for their artistic value.

Traditional African Seating

In addition to chairs, traditional African furniture also includes various types of seating arrangements. These seating options are designed to promote a sense of community and togetherness, and they are often used in social gatherings and ceremonies. Additionally, these seating options serve practical purposes, such as providing low-level seating that is more suitable for hot climates.

One popular seating option in African homes is the use of low stools. These stools are typically made from wood or other natural materials and can be created in a range of sizes and styles. They are often used for seating at low tables or as an alternative to chairs in communal spaces.

Another traditional African seating option is floor cushions. These cushions are often made from colorful fabrics and can be arranged in a variety of ways to create comfortable seating areas. They are particularly popular in North African countries such as Morocco and Tunisia.

Communal seating is also a key component of traditional African seating arrangements. This type of seating is designed to facilitate conversation and to promote a sense of closeness and community. Large mats or rugs are often used to create these seating areas, and they can be arranged in a variety of ways to accommodate different group sizes.

African Beaded Chairs

Maasai beaded chairs are a unique type of African furniture, notable for their intricate beadwork and lively colors. These chairs are crafted by hand, with the beadwork often taking several days to complete.

Beadwork is an important aspect of Maasai culture, with patterns and colors holding specific meanings. The intricate beadwork on these chairs often depicts stories or symbols significant to Maasai traditions.

In Maasai households, beaded chairs are typically used for special occasions such as weddings, ceremonies, or gatherings. They serve as a symbol of wealth, showcasing the family’s ability to afford such intricately designed furniture.

The use of vibrant colors and elaborate beadwork make Maasai beaded chairs a popular choice for African-inspired decor. They add a touch of culture and authenticity to any interior space.

Bamileke Stools

Bamileke stools are known for their intricate carvings and cultural significance in Cameroon. These stools are handcrafted by skilled artisans and are often used in ceremonies and gatherings, as well as in everyday life in Cameroon.

The carvings on Bamileke stools are typically symbolic and have deep cultural meanings. For example, some carvings represent animals or nature, while others represent important cultural values such as wisdom or unity. The stools are often used as thrones for royalty or as seats for important guests.

Material Design Use
Wood Intricately carved Seats for important guests and ceremonial occasions
Symbolic carvings Decorative Thrones for royalty
Cultural significance Handcrafted Everyday use in Cameroon households

Bamileke stools are highly valued in Cameroon and are often passed down through generations as family heirlooms. They add a unique touch of African culture and craftsmanship to any home decor.

Mud Cloth Ottomans

Mud cloth ottomans are a popular seating option in African-inspired interiors. These ottomans incorporate traditional African textiles called mud cloth, which are made by hand from fermented mud. The unique patterns and designs on mud cloth are created using a resist dyeing technique, resulting in bold geometric shapes and symbols.

In addition to their cultural significance, mud cloth ottomans are also practical seating options. They can be used as footrests or as additional seating in a living room or bedroom. The mud cloth cover is easily removable, making it simple to clean or change the cover for a new design.

Mud cloth ottomans are available in a variety of sizes and shapes, from small round ottomans to larger rectangular options. They can be paired with other African-inspired furniture, such as wooden chairs or woven baskets, to create a cohesive look in a room.


In conclusion, traditional African furniture offers a rich tapestry of chair and seating designs that reflect the cultural diversity and historical significance of the continent. From Adinkra symbol chairs to Ashanti throne chairs, Zulu reed mats and stools to Maasai beaded chairs, Bamileke stools to mud cloth ottomans, each piece carries with it a unique story and connection to African heritage.

By incorporating these beautiful and functional pieces into interior design, individuals can add a touch of cultural authenticity and diversity to their homes. Whether as statement pieces or subtle accents, African furniture designs offer a timeless and elegant addition to any space.


Q: What is traditional African furniture?

A: Traditional African furniture refers to the various types of furniture designs and styles that are rooted in African culture and heritage. These furniture pieces are often handmade using natural materials and are known for their unique craftsmanship and cultural significance.

Q: What are some examples of traditional African chairs?

A: Some examples of traditional African chairs include Adinkra symbol chairs from Ghana, Ashanti throne chairs, Zulu reed mats and stools, Maasai beaded chairs, Bamileke stools from Cameroon, and mud cloth ottomans.

Q: What are the different styles of African chairs?

A: African chairs come in various styles and designs. They can be made from wood or wicker and feature intricate carvings, beadwork, or woven patterns. Some popular African chair styles include Adinkra symbol chairs, Ashanti throne chairs, Zulu reed mats and stools, Maasai beaded chairs, Bamileke stools, and mud cloth ottomans.

Q: What is the cultural significance of traditional African seating?

A: Traditional African seating plays an important role in African culture and interior design. Low stools, floor cushions, and communal seating arrangements are commonly used in African homes to create a sense of community and foster social interactions. These seating options also reflect the cultural values and traditions of different African tribes and ethnic groups.

Q: How are Adinkra symbols incorporated into African chairs?

A: Adinkra symbol chairs feature traditional Ghanaian Adinkra symbols, which hold deep cultural and spiritual meanings. These symbols are typically carved or painted onto the chairs, adding both artistic and cultural value to the design. Each Adinkra symbol represents a specific concept or virtue, making these chairs not only functional but also symbolic.

Q: What is the significance of Ashanti throne chairs in African royalty?

A: Ashanti throne chairs are highly significant in African royalty and ceremonial occasions. They are often used as seats of power for Ashanti kings and chiefs, symbolizing their authority and status. The intricate designs and materials used in these chairs reflect the richness and prestige of Ashanti culture and tradition.

Q: How are Zulu reed mats and stools made?

A: Zulu reed mats and stools are traditionally handcrafted using natural materials like reeds and grasses. Skilled artisans weave these materials together to create durable and comfortable seating options. The craftsmanship involved in making Zulu reed mats and stools has been passed down through generations, preserving this important aspect of Zulu culture.

Q: What is the significance of beadwork in Maasai culture?

A: Beadwork holds great cultural significance in Maasai culture. It is used to adorn clothing, accessories, and furniture, including Maasai beaded chairs. Beadwork represents important aspects of Maasai identity, such as social status, age, and marital status. The intricate bead patterns and vibrant colors on Maasai chairs reflect the artistic creativity and cultural heritage of the Maasai people.

Q: How are Bamileke stools used in ceremonies and gatherings?

A: Bamileke stools are often used as seats of honor during ceremonies and gatherings in Cameroon. They are considered a symbol of power, authority, and prestige. These intricately carved stools are also used as decorative pieces in homes, showcasing the rich cultural heritage of the Bamileke people.

Q: What is mud cloth and how is it incorporated into ottomans?

A: Mud cloth is a traditional African fabric characterized by its unique patterns and earthy tones. It is made by hand using a labor-intensive process of dyeing and mud-resist techniques. Mud cloth ottomans incorporate this fabric into their upholstery, bringing a touch of African authenticity to interior spaces. These ottomans can be used as versatile seating options or as decorative accents.

Hendrix Morellaz
Hendrix Morellaz

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