Kazuri Bead & Pottery Center

As I've already shared earlier, we went for a walk/hike along the Oloolua Nature Trail two weekends ago and on our way to lunch afterwards, I noted that we stopped by the Kazuri Bead and Pottery Center.  In mentioning Kazuri, I had every intention of going back and giving a fuller account about our experience as I thought it deserved some spotlight in its own right.  But as is the case when life goes on, I was waylaid by blueberry cakes, photo exhibits, and paper planes.  Yet, even two weeks after our visit, I find myself still thinking about our time in Kazuri.  As it clearly remains as an experience I want to remember, I've decided its about time I end the delay today.  And so without further ado, I give to you, Kazuri...

Until recently, I had only known Kazuri to be the sensory overloading jewelry shop with their psychodelic strings of necklaces and earrings hanging like strange fruit from a forest of stands.  I owned two pairs of their earrings even before moving to Kenya and have admired their pieces many times since setting up residence in Nairobi.  I had even read articles about them in magazines but somehow it had eluded me that their workshop was based in Karen, a neighboring suburb of Nairobi.  And so it was with considerable surprise that I noted the signs for their workshop on our way to lunch.  Being a craft nut, I knew we had to go despite being on the verge of hangry.  

As it turns out, Kazuri is one of the "O.G.'s" of Kenyan social enterprises.  Started in 1975, it has trained and employed hundreds of Kenyan women, mostly single mothers who are greatly in need of regular jobs.  Today their workforce exceeds 350 women for whom they provide a free medical clinic on site.  Should any one of them require medical treatment outside of the clinic, Kazuri even covers 80% of their expenses.

Despite having made no prior arrangements, when we arrived at the workshop, we were promptly greeted by a woman in the doorway who then began taking us on a "free" tour through the different workshops.  I say "free" because there was no need to pay a set price for a ticket but we were encouraged to tip our guide afterwards, which we gladly did.  From where the clay is first brought in and processed to where the finished beads are strung into wearable art, our guide took us through each stage of the manufacturing process...

In additional to jewelry, Kazuri also makes a whole line of handcrafted tableware, decorative figurines, and even leather sandals and purses.  Each individual piece is of course completely made by hand by the women (and even some men!) of Kazuri.    

To visit Kazuri was to walk amid a buzy hive of activity, looking over the shoulders of women dexterously shaping, painting, or stringing their part in making something beautiful.  It was inspiring to be among artisans who participated in every stage of their craft.  No part of the process was impersonally automated by machines.  And so in this way, I came to realize that the earrings hanging in my room were touched by so many pairs of hands before they ever fell into my own.  Not to sound nauseatingly cheezy but something about that reality seemed beautiful to me.  I left Kazuri feeling strangely grateful to the dozens of women who worked together to make my earrings.  If you're gagging at my sentimentalilty you'll be happy to know that the moment didn't last though, as is usually the case with me, all thoughts quickly turned to my now very empty stomach as we scooted off to Talisman for a well deserved lunch.  


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