Do Good Because of Tomorrow

Yinka Ilori

Making Workshops

Yinka Ilori teamed up with pupils from Giffard Park Primary, Great Linford Primary and St Monica’s Catholic Primary schools to up-cycle abandoned chairs.

Ilori and the students used chairs donated by the community and one of the children’s grandparents, and spent five weeks designing and creating their collection. The workshops started with each child selecting a parable which would inspire their design. With guidance from Ilori, the pupils sketched their ideas down on paper; including every detail, no ambition was too big!

After selecting a chair and priming it with white paint, each pupil transformed their blank canvas with colourful narratives, adding their unique style and personality. The children displayed their work at Milton Keynes Arts Centre throughout July 2016 in an exhibition at Milton Keynes Arts Centre alongside Yinka Ilori. The chairs were also displayed at the relevant schools in special assemblies during the autumn term where the children had the opportunity to share their parables, showcase their work, and explain the creative processes involved.

"They were able to talk very creatively about their work, and in detail. And even in the assembly, considering the amount of time since they had actually done the work they were still very confident speakers – what their chair represented and linking it back to the parable they had read. I was quite amazed really. They were the children who wouldn’t be speaking comfortably, and in a whole school assembly because they had obviously enjoyed the experience, they were confident enough to actually talk about their own art."

We received feedback that the children gained valuable tools from this experience, the most significant being a boost in confidence in a range of areas from developing their own creative process, problem solving, public speaking, and being involved in practical skills not available to them at school. The schools involved particularly valued the opportunities it gave children to work with practicing artists, crucially, those students who were less likely to have been to an Arts Centre before.  

"They felt proud of their work, they learnt confidence. I don’t think they thought that they could produce something like that. They’ve turned something that was just on paper into their finished project."

Even though the project was completed in July, the students at Gifford Park continued to work on their chair stories. Part of the Arts Centre’s aim through delivering these workshops is to provide continued engagement within our community after the completion of a project, and we are pleased to see this was met during the creative exchange between artist Ilori and the participants involved. 

During the assemblies, Ilori introduced his practice to a collective audience of approximately 1,110 of Milton Keynes school children and staff, and he continued to share the project with audiences through platforms including Clerkenwell Design Week in London and Design Indaba in Africa.

A special thank to Age UK Milton Keynes, who donated the majority of the vintage chairs used in these upcycling workshops, and to our community members who donated unwanted furniture.

Ilori is passionately against the unnecessary waste he has seen in European and West African consumer cultures, a stance which drives him to reuse discarded furniture and other found objects. This process restores new life and purpose to reclaimed materials allowing them to take on new meanings.
The Exhibition

Working with Milton Keynes Arts Centre on our community-based project reminded Ilori of a philosophy instilled in him by his parents. Do Good Because of Tomorrow takes its title from a widely used Nigerian phrase that encourages people to participate in good deeds in their community, fostering positive change.

Inspired by the traditional Nigerian parables and African fabrics that surrounded him as child, Ilori brings verbal tradition into playful conversation with contemporary design, each piece of furniture he creates tells a story.

To introduce his latest collection Ilori invited his audience into an uplifting space that embodies feelings of happiness and joy. In this room chairs represent the catalyst releasing this energy, the people that have ‘paid it forward’.

Yinka’s favourite Nigerian Parables
  1. The plate never knew it would (eventually) taste pepper. [Don’t give up; the best is yet to come] 
  1. The fall of a man is not the end of his life. [Failure is temporary] 
  1. Money is crucial, but it’s nothing like human relationships (or networks). [Relationships are crucial] 
  1. Stones should not be thrown at a bird that wants to fly away.  
  1. We ought not to know the truth, yet take delight in wrong doing. [Personal integrity is crucial] 
  1. There is sweetness in bitter-leaf, at the end. [Keep hope alive; don’t give up] 
  1. If one head is blessed, it positively impacts two hundred others. [Success can be contagious] 
  1. Life’s challenges do not kill, they simply make one wiser. [Keep holding on] 
  1. Work never kills anyone; it’s poverty that does. [Hard work pays…] 
  1. Whoever unduly bothers about his peers’ success, will hustle himself to death. [Contentment] 

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