Growing up in Ethiopia in the 1970s, Jomo Tariku was always
surrounded by beautiful things. His father—a US-educated
colonel in the Ethiopian army, designated the first military
attaché to Kenya—collected glassware, furniture, rugs,
and objets d’art, acquired on his travels in Africa and beyond.
“I believe that left a lasting impression on me and what I do
now for a living,” says the industrial designer, who was born in Nairobi and is
now based in Virginia. At the behest of his father (who wanted to keep his two
sons out of trouble), Tariku did a summer apprenticeship with a local furniture
builder in Addis Ababa before moving to the US in 1987 to pursue a degree in
industrial design at the University of Kansas. While he was completing his
thesis on contemporary African furniture, he began developing his own design
practice. But it took 30 years for the world to take notice.