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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fairi
X
Brian Padden
May 29, 2015 1:27 PM
With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”