Sculptor and designer Maurice Calka was born in 1921 in Lodz, Poland, and raised in Lille, France. At the age of 16, he began studying art at the Lille School of the Fine Arts. In 1942, he joined the Free French Forces, the resistance group founded by Charles de Gaulle, and remained in the military until 1945. Calka then returned to school, studying sculpture at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, where he later taught. In 1950, he was awarded the Grand Prix de Rome, an honor that allowed him the opportunity to work in the Villa Médicis in Rome for four years. While there, he studied urbanism.
Over the course of his career, Calka worked primarily in France but also took on international projects, including nearly 50 works of public art ranging from sculptures to bas-reliefs and multicolored objects. In 1954, he received his first and best-known urban-art commission for the stone Lion of Judah in front of the National Theater in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The sculpture, which became a symbol of Afrocentrism, was commissioned by Emperor Haile Selassie to reflect the notion of Africa entering modern times.
Calka’s other best-known piece is the 1969 curvaceous Boomerang Desk, made of polyester resin and fiberglass. Calka passed away in 1999.