News / Arts & Entertainment

Young Kenyans Use Bones to Make Art

Bones from a Soweto restaurant, July, 2014. (Lenny Ruvaga / VOA)
Bones from a Soweto restaurant, July, 2014. (Lenny Ruvaga / VOA)

A group of enterprising young people in Kibera, Nairobi's largest slum, have turned to making art from animal bones. The jewelery items range in price from $3 to $5 and are a big hit with locals and tourists alike. 

Soweto Restaurant is located in the sprawling Kibera slum.  The restaurant serves around 500 people a day and at any given time is filled with customers. Today is no exception.
 
Restaurant owner Mutua Mutiso said his customers like meat.

"My customers like chicken, beef and liver.  They also like from boiled meat and the roasted kind.  The prices are quite affordable and that keeps my customers happy," he said.
 
But some of his customers, like George Otieno, prefer the bones.  Otieno is the 25-year-old co-founder of Victorious Bones,  a youth group that began eight years ago with the purpose of turning bones into art.
 
Otieno buys discarded bones for his workshop once a month from Soweto Restaurant.

"I usually buy the waste bones for around $5 per kilogram.  This forms the raw material for the jewelery that I shall later make.  Products are made from cow, goat and camel bones.  A cow bone costs 20 shillings [23 cents] while goat and camel bones are 15 shillings [17 cents] and $1 respectively," he said.

​Back at the workshop, not far from the Soweto restaurant, he cuts and sharpens the bones using a circular blade and then smoothes them down with sand paper.  The next step is boiling the bones with hydrogen peroxide to remove oil on the surface and to make it easier to apply color.  

"I then apply candle wax to the boiled bones -- the waxed part will remain white and the other part will become black when the bones are dyed," Otieno said.  "In the final stage, I put the bones in a container filled with dye for an hour to enable them to have a long-lasting color."
 
The bones then become earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings.   Depending on the complexity of design, a piece of jewelry can take six to 20 hours to complete.
 
Otieno said his Victorious Bones group can make 500 earrings and 150 to 200 necklaces a day depending on the order. 

"This is a very competitive business.  Our output depends on an order.  We usually sell our pieces to tourists who visit us and abroad in Canada and Finland," he said.
 
Victorious Bones partnered with an organization called SEED -- which stands for Students Empowerment through Education and Development -- which brings in tourists to buy the jewelry and finds new markets for the art.
 
"Our organization sources for markets for the jewelery internationally.  By doing so we are empowering the group to produce more and employ more young people to do something constructive," said Patrick Aouki, director at SEED.
 
With no capital to buy equipment and rent a workshop, Otieno and his four friends began by pooling their meager savings.  They each contributed $1 per week and within a year they were able to buy their first machine and get a space for their workshop. 

Profits, said Otieno, were put back into the workshop to expand.
 
"The business now boasts 16 bench grinders - used to sharpen, smoothen and draw shapes on the bones - and a big workshop that accommodates 25 artists," he said.  "We also employ around 11 people from the neighborhood who earn a decent income from the jewelery."
 
Victorious Bones has also trained more than 40 young people from the slums - giving them a marketable skill and a more viable future.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Acclaimed jazz saxophonist Tia Fuller has made a name for herself appearing with such high-profile artists as Beyonce, Esperanza Spalding, and Terri Lyne Carrington. Tia and her quartet performed music from her CD “Angelic Warrior” on our latest edition of "The Hamilton Live."