My wife’s reasons for planning the trip to South Africa was to experience the culture, sample the wine and see the animals. Being the more passive member of the excursion, I just hope to see some unique furniture. All goals were achieved.

As I might have mentioned earlier, we stayed in hotels that were well above the Red Roofs at which we normally stay. We don’t understand why, we just accepted our fate. The hotel in Cape Town, the Cape Grace Hotel, was filled with antiques. I will get a great post from it by just wandering the halls. In our bathroom and from what I’m told, all bathrooms, was this unique little chair:

Not available at Rooms To Go. Or IKEA.

Not available at Rooms To Go. Or, internationally, IKEA.

The seat is a single board with breadboard ends:

Breadboarding in the African style.

Breadboarding in the African style.

The through tenons of the breadboard are pinned by the legs:

Back legs are shaved or turned down.

Back legs are shaved or turned down.

The back sits atop the rear legs:

and wedged.

and wedged.

I was told this is a Baule chair and saw many similar examples of this chair around Cape Town. The story is that this chair is used by the elder or chief at a low dining table while those of lower status sit on the floor. Having sat in a few of these chairs, I believe that the floor is a fine place to sit. Heavy is the head that wears the crown.

Visiting a craft shop in Stellenbosch in the wine region, I saw this chair:

Same chair, different day.

Same chair, different day.

The details are different but basically the same chair. Perhaps more refined, but the construction is the same. Better wood negating the need for breadboard ends.

I was told this is a Senufo chair used by the chief or elder at a low dining table while others sit on the floor. Baule and Senufo are two ethnic groups of the Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire if you prefer the French). The Baule inhabit Central Ivory Coast and the Senufo the North and Mali.

A Google image search for Baule and Senufo chairs leads me to believe that the terms are interchangeable with both type chairs show up in either. Keep in mind using Google as a primary reference is alway problematic but it’s what I have.

The difference in the chairs come down to refinement. Looking at the back is a good example of this. This is the Baule chair:

Possibly a serpents head?

Possibly a serpent’s head? You might not be able to see it but the wedge on the left runs left to right while the right on runs front to back.

The Senufo chair is more refined:

The head of a hippo?  Or a different serpent? No quick and easy explanation of the 8 pointed star.

The head of a hippo? Or a different serpent? No quick and easy explanation of the 8 pointed star.

I have more pictures of the chairs HERE if you care. They’re still there if you don’t care, actually.

The finish on the Baule chair had a very waxy feel with a low sheen. I wondered if it was a soap finish that’s been all the rage lately. Or possibly just an accumulation of commercial cleaning problems.

If you do your own Google image search, you will see many variations of the chairs with lesser and greater degrees of ornamentation and height. Not all chiefs like sitting that close to the floor I suppose.

Construction is different but it comes down to four legged chairs, front legs stop at the seat and are wedged. Rear legs continue up and support the back. Slightly unique implementation.

On a basic level, they are really just chairs…