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The Ostrich Egg or the NFT?

DNA sequencing, computer-generated identity, and digital provenance might not come to mind when you think of a typical lighting collection. But for Franco-American architect Elliott Barnes, all are rife for exploration in his intriguing new lighting collection Iqanda.

“The idea came to me at dinner, as most things do in France,” shares Barnes.

At first blush, the five-piece Iqanda (a Xhosa word meaning egg) collection is all about materiality, a dominant theme in much of Barnes’s design work. In this case, the medium was ostrich eggs—a material used for decorative purposes in South Africa (where Xhosa is one of many languages spoken) going back millennia, as well as in early modern European cabinets of curiosity, or wunderkammers, and museums.

Photo credit: Elodie Dupuis
Photo credit: Elodie Dupuis

Traditionally, an ostrich egg is coated, treated, or displayed in its entirety as a decorative object. But for Iqanda, Barnes sliced the shell at different points, using the halved form as a lamp shade. Form didn’t follow function, “the form influenced the form,” says the designer. The resulting group consists of a five-shade wall sconce, three-shade table lamp, a 16-shade floor light, and a chandelier with innumerable eggshells arranged in descending layers.

But there is more to Iqanda than meets the eye. The collection features an underlying digital component called Hatch, in which each piece is accompanied by a non-fungible token (NFT)—unique data units that live on a blockchain (think of it as a digital ledger) as a proxy for physical or digital items. Barnes engraves the physical lights with details identifying the customer, who also receives a unique digital version of the lamp in NFT form.

Photo credit: Elodie Dupuis
Photo credit: Elodie Dupuis

“I try to make work that is of today and will hopefully be relevant tomorrow,” muses Barnes. For him, the NFT is a fascinating analog of the ostrich eggs. Though each shell appears identical, they all hold their own unique genetic material—not unlike an NFT. In incorporating this type of organic material, the Iqanda collection gains an infinite life of its own, with perpetual provenance. “The trump card is that Mother Nature never does the same thing twice,” Barnes says.

The entire Iqanda collection is readily available for geeks and aesthetes alike through Tisserant Art et Style (the collection’s manufacturer), with NFTs accessible through Foundation.app.



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