I spent my childhood in Nanyuki, a cosmopolitan town at the foot of Mt. Kenya, where the wildlife was part of the landscape, since modernization had not encroached the fields. In this Workshop we will sculpt an elephant, as Kenyan tribes have done in Kenya for centuries.
The Abantus tribe in Kenya are known for their sculpture and wood-carvings, which often have religious significance. Figures of ancestors and wildlife figures carved out of stone by tribes like the Gusii are believed to appease the inhabitants of the spirit world. These artifacts were used during ritual processions. In some of the Abantu tribes they carved animals mixed with human features. These ritual objects were used when a community member had a disability, or when supernatural phenomena were sensed among them. In addition to wood, sculptors also work in ivory and gold. Contemporary sculptors often blend traditional styles with more modern ones.
In Africa today, wildlife is a major aspect of people’s lives, not only for the Abantu, but also for those who live near the mountain and forests. To the Maasai, animals, especially the African game, are part of their history and cultural setting. The government of Kenya has invested through the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage in the preservation and documentation of this craft, by supporting tourism.
Wildlife wood carving today is a lucrative commercial industry, and this in turn has provided jobs to many youths. Curio shops that sell these wood carvings as interior decor have thrived because of domestic and foreign tourism.
But you don’t have to travel to Kenya to find an elephant sculpture. In this Workshop we will discuss these traditions and sculpt our own elephant out of oven baked clay. I look forward to meeting you!