PLACES

Built initially for shade in the otherwise barren land, the haunting sculptures loom between working posts. The evidence of her humble beginnings are here, from designs made only from bottle caps and scrap metal but lead one right up to the Florentine, delicate glassware housed inside the statues. Despite how far she has come from using cast-offs and rubbish, Nani still recycles every piece of material – even the tiniest of shards, in suncatchers to mosaics to finally melted into beads that are produced at the factory run by Nani’s daughter Katrineka, a fine arts graduate from the USA. In each way they can, they focus in on lowering energy consumption. Kitengela’s carbon footprint is minimal, their impact on their surrounds barely noted save for its surreal appearance. Now, a studio of 50 local people who sustain their extended families on their wages, Kitengela has become a hive of industry, specializing in stained glass, glass-blowing, dale de verre, fusing, slumping, mosaic, wrought iron, ferro-cement sculpture, pottery, woodwork and jewellery making. And of course in doing so, has created a community for skilled artisans, a refuge for those seeking apprenticeships and has provided a new way of life for many. The spill-over of Kitengela’s relentlessly optimistic attitude has affected the wider public, where Nani’s bright and cheerful work can be seen in glass faces at children’s institutes, murals and benches at general hospitals and in sculptures for women’s workshops. But even as the studio garners great interest both locally and abroad, the nature of the land and the reality of its position remains the same, particularly as Nani has bought a buffer zone of land around the glass paradise as a wildlife sanctuary. Kitengela remains a constant reminder of the wild, simple life, a mad jumble of dream, thought and imagination. Lions and leopards and pythons pose threats to the livestock the Crozes keep, children walk barefoot to the efficient bush school Nani has created, roads don’t exist and neither does running water and electricity. Yet, out here, in this cool quiet garden sanctuary, none of the conveniences of reality seem to matter. Emily Veitch

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