Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Fishing craft to foosball tables, furniture to float your boat

By Teo Kermeliotis, for CNN
updated 10:42 AM EDT, Fri August 30, 2013
Artlantique is a company transforming old fishing boats from Senegal into hand-made furniture sold internationally. Artlantique is a company transforming old fishing boats from Senegal into hand-made furniture sold internationally.
HIDE CAPTION
Beautiful boats reborn
Beautiful boats reborn
Beautiful boats reborn
Beautiful boats reborn
Beautiful boats reborn
Beautiful boats reborn
Beautiful boats reborn
Beautiful boats reborn
Beautiful boats reborn
Beautiful boats reborn
Beautiful boats reborn
Beautiful boats reborn
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Artlantique produces furniture made from old fishing boats in Senegal
  • Many of the colorful boats have sailed the Atlantic for 50 years
  • The company's creations can be found in stores in Europe, New York and Tokyo

(CNN) -- In the white sand beaches of Yoff, the small fishing town just north of the Senegalese capital Dakar, a seemingly endless line of brightly colored boats dots the Atlantic seaside.

It was here, about four years ago, that Spanish designer Ramon Llonch was first struck by the mysterious symbols and intricate patterns adorning the hand-painted wooden vessels.

"I was amazed by the beauty of the fishing boats, many of which were old, damaged by the salt and the sun or abandoned," remembers Llonch, who was at the time cycling solo around the West African country. "I was captivated by that colorful mosaic of life with the women selling the fish and the men approaching the shore," he adds.

Read this: African firm invests billions in U.S.

Exploring Senegal's bustling capital
A taste of Senegal
The sounds of Senegal

Looking at the old, weathered canoes, Llonch started wondering whether he could find a new use for them while preserving the history of their owners. His idea was to work with skillful local craftsmen and breathe new life into the traditional "pirogues" by transforming them into hand-made furniture.

And that's how Artlantique was born, a company repurposing boats that are no longer sea worthy into upcycled fittings -- anything from whimsical chairs and coffee tables to one-of-a-kind cabinets and even foosball tables.

"It's like a reincarnation of something that had life before -- a life in the Atlantic, a life in Africa," says Llonch. "Every time you see this furniture, you have a piece of the soul and the history of these fishermen," adds the 52-year-old designer.

Long journey

From the waters off the coast of Senegal, through the Dakar-based workshop, to several stores across the world, the journey of transforming the old fishing boats into furniture is far from easy.

Artlantique employs 12 craftsmen, including a co-ordinator who is in regular contact with the local fishermen about the purchase of those boats whose life span on the ocean waters has ended -- usually after 40 to 50 years of use.

Read this: Can Africa unlock its solar potential?

After transporting the boats into Artlantique's workshop, the company's master carpenters start the arduous task of dismantling the 12-meter long vessels. Once that's completed, they decide how to reconstruct the old samba wood -- depending on its size, condition and color combinations -- without any wood treatment or additional painting.

It's like a reincarnation of something that had life before -- a life in the Atlantic, a life in Africa.
Ramon Llonch, Artlantique, founder

Artlantique's eclectic creations are then shipped to Barcelona, Llonch's base, and from there they are sent to clients across Europe, as well as stores in New York and Tokyo.

Passion for Africa

Llonch says that what makes the furniture special is the history behind it and the creativity of the artisans working with raw materials that are hard to remodel.

"The main reason of this project is to preserve the wood as it was, with all the stories, all the nautical miles sailed in Atlantic," says Llonch.

Read this: Bamboo bikes put business on right track

"This wood ... has certain limitations, not only because it has a shape but also because it's very damaged by the salt, the sea, the sun and the time. But these artisans are very talented," he adds. "Their creativity is not academic, they are like this by nature because (for them) recycling and reusing is not a fashion, it's not a trend."

Looking ahead, Llonch says his goal is to expand the business and help other skilled craftsmen to develop their creative talents.

"Africa for me is a social inspiration, it's my passion," he says. "We started with the fishing boats ... because I was astonished when I saw the beaches with these stylish boats but maybe this is just the beginning," adds Llonch.

"There is a lot of creativity that we can use and we can take from African artists -- I want to continue to collaborate and discover the African talent, this is my aim."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Marketplace Africa
updated 6:00 AM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Fish from the tiny mountain kingdom of Lesotho are served in top Tokyo sushi spots.
updated 8:23 AM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
The world-famous waterfall is inspiring a local tourism boom as an increasing number of people is visiting Zimbabwe.
updated 5:07 AM EST, Tue November 11, 2014
Seychelles needed more than pristine beaches and choral reefs to boost its once troubled tourism industry.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
A general view of the Hout Bay harbour covered in mist is seen on May 8, 2010 from the Chapman's peak road on the outskirts of Cape Town. Chapman's peak road is the coastal link between Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope. When following the African coastline from the equator the Cape of Good Hope marks the psychologically important point where one begins to travel more eastward than southward, thus the first rounding of the cape in 1488 by Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias was a major milestone in the attempts by the Portuguese to establish direct trade relations with the Far East. He called the cape Cabo Tormentoso. As one of the great capes of the South Atlantic Ocean, the Cape of Good Hope has been of special significance to sailors for many years and is widely referred to by them simply as 'the Cape'. It is a major milestone on the clipper route followed by clipper ships to the Far East and Australia, and still followed by several offshore yacht races. AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (Photo credit should read GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)
Abandoned workshops and empty warehouses are getting a new lease of life in Cape Town.
updated 6:37 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Inside a glove factory on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, busy laborers turn patches of leather into these fashionable garments.
updated 6:50 AM EDT, Thu October 9, 2014
The Somali capital now has its first-ever ATM bank machine -- and it dispenses U.S. dollars.
updated 5:11 AM EDT, Thu October 9, 2014
Waves lap at the ships as they pull into the Port of Ngqura, but no swell is stopping the local economy booming.
updated 11:24 AM EDT, Fri October 3, 2014
In Uganda, a group of landmine victims are using banana fiber to create rope, profit and community.
updated 9:37 AM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
What does it mean to be Nigerian? That's the question on the lips of many in Nigeria as new national identity cards are being rolled out.
updated 7:05 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
 General view of an oil offshore platform owned by Total Fina Elf in the surroundings waters of the Angolan coast 15 October 2003. The 11 members of the OPEC oil cartel have agreed to slash output by a million barrels a day, the OPEC president said 11 October 2006, in a move aimed at shoring up sliding world crude prices.
Six of the top 10 global oil and gas discoveries last year were made in Africa -- but can these finds transform the continent?
updated 6:21 AM EST, Thu February 20, 2014
A South African app allows buyers to pay for goods using their phone, without having to worry about carrying cash or credit cards.
updated 7:27 PM EST, Thu December 12, 2013
African astronomers want world-class observatories to inspire young scientists and build a tech economy.
updated 10:23 AM EST, Wed February 19, 2014
A Zambian computer tablet -- known as the ZEduPad -- is trying to open up the country's information highway.
updated 5:57 AM EST, Thu January 9, 2014
South Africa may be the dominant force in Africa's wine economy, but other countries are making inroads in the industry.
updated 5:27 AM EDT, Thu October 10, 2013
Eko Atlantic city design concept
A lack of infrastructure has hindered Africa's development, but a series of megaprojects could change that.
Each week Marketplace Africa covers the continent's macro trends and interviews a major player from the region's business community.
ADVERTISEMENT