In 1981 Nani Croze started building this fabulous place, which today attracts people from all over the world.
I still remember the first time I visited as a 4-year-old girl: my child’s sense of adventure captivated by the maze of paths and vines and cottage-workshops; my artistic interest even then intrigued by the myriad of artworks on display, by the coloured glass and the beautiful creations that it formed. When I finished high school, I was drawn back here, and spent some time learning to work with the raw materials here that so fascinated me as a child.
Today, Nani’s Kitengela Glass remains much unchanged. Following the mosaik paths you walk past unusual sculptures, buildings and animals, and every visit brings new discoveries. Between shop, gallery and intricately sculpted sitting areas, you can wander about, watching the artisans work with recycled glass and metal, tin and plastic and turning them into pieces of art.
Nani not only provides a lively training center for about fifty artisans in various artistic disciplines, but is also very active in all kinds of cleanup and recycling activities, so she was one of the first people I wanted to talk to about my project.
Sitting on her verandah in the dense shade of indigenous trees and surrounded by her menagerie of pets, she told me about the many projects that she is involved with, mostly with the aim of maintaining the natural landscape (by planting trees or limiting and recycling waste), supporting women’s access to education, and funding and promoting grant programs for children’s school fees.
It’s an approach that goes far beyond art and using recycled materials, to include community welfare and conservation. As our conversation progressed beyond her own work, she suggested that I visit the coast, where plastic waste is becoming an increasingly urgent problem – not just in Kenya, but in all of our planet’s oceans.
As an example of a project addressing the issue locally, she pointed me towards Steve Trott and the Watamu Marine Association.
It was time for me to head to the coast.
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