PLACES

From the arid Kenyan plains blossoms a secret garden of delight. Maximum meaning, minimal means. This simple approach is the structure upon which Nani Croze’s Kitengela Glass Paradise was built. Born in Germany, Nani’s family of artists encouraged her natural creative ability from the very beginning, but it was Africa and its wildlife that instilled in her a real passion. In the early seventies after living in the Serengeti studying elephants, Nani and her former husband animal behaviourist Harvey Croze, moved to Kenya where she began to paint murals for extra income. Two years later and newly single, Nani was left with a large plot of land her and Harvey had bought from a Masai chief. Intending to eventually build a house upon it, the two had done little to the land before parting, and all that stood upon it was huts and horse stalls. Undeterred, even with three young children, Nani had to make the most of her artistry to provide for her family in Kenya. Advised to learn a discipline more lucrative than painting, Nani travelled to London where she took a course in stained-glass production. Returning to her African home, she discovered simply mastering the art of her new craft was not the only challenge she was to face. Early commissions in Nairobi were few and far between, and the glass, which was costly and imported, had to be transported over kilometers of make-shift road. t was after she was bought her first kiln by her current partner Eric Krystall, that Nani’s rich im agination and resourceful business mind were brought to life. Making her own lead, Nani realized that by employing the foreman of a collapsed glass plant in the area she could recycle and create her own coloured material – diminishing costs by a considerable amount. Nani started producing new and beautiful work swiftly, and the orders began to come in. ll the while, Nani’s children who had inherited their mother’s gift for fantasy, were growing up with a keen eye on her work. It wasn’t long before Anselm, her eldest son, left Kenya for France to learn to blow glass. Despite the nay-sayers who condemned the future and feasibility of blown glass creations in Africa, Nani pressed on, urging her son to not only continue his craft in their home, but to teach it to the local people as well, building a full team of skilled artists. As her work, team and family grew, so did her surrounds. The empty Masai land became peppered with thatched rondavels – thick clay hovels studded with sparkling stained glass windows and ornate door and window designs. Each outhouse follows another along a winding paved path through the dense trees and bush, here and there a shimmering hunk of glass and everywhere the glitter of crushed mosaics. Her imagination and inspiration from the wildlife she so loves is evident in sculpture and murals – her braai, the jaws of a dragon, her pool filled with the humps of a mythical sea creature. Up above the hot African dirt, bridges and wrought iron staircases lead to stilted studies and breathtaking balconies. Concrete and brilliant slabs of glass create tunnels and arches overhead and brightly painted wooden doorways lead from one dream world garden to another. GLASSLANDS Visi

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