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

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land In French Port

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching 'Fortress Europe' More

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

New Hints That Dark Matter Exists

New evidence from International Space Station hints at existence of dark matter and dark energy 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.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Trumpeter, percussionist and bandleader Etienne Charles was born in Trinidad and blends island rhythms with modern jazz. He and his stellar band perform a rich gumbo of jazz, calypso, reggae, and rock-steady that Charles calls “Creole Soul” on "The Hamilton Live."