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Carving out a niche in traditional artefacts industry

On the streets of Kitengela Town along the road leading to St Monica Catholic Church, you will find a young family who have carved out a niche in selling traditional artefacts.

Some of the Artefacts at Stephen’s shop. Photo by Vivian Mbinya

Stephen Kasyoki Mwangangi is a humble man who has made it a point in his life to preserve the heritage that is in traditional art and household implements.

He started the enterprise while in technical college to earn some extra income in the year 2018. With an initial sum of around Sh3,500, he started by selling cooking ladles ‘Mwiko’ which he would hawk around Kitengela over the weekend and settle at a make-shift ‘Kibanda’ after doing rounds when he was not attending classes.

After he completed his studies in Plant Operations and Mechanics and could not find employment, he continued with his hustle until he was able to set up a shop.

“One thing that has made the business grow is that we are selling unique items that aim to preserve our traditions and being the only shop where you can find all the traditional items here in Kitengela has helped propel our business. We are looking into opening another branch in the town,” he said.

Mwangangi feels proud that he has been able to employ people back home who assist him in the production process.

He gets assistance from his wife when they are polishing his stock such as the cooking spoons which are then sold to institutions around the area such as schools. He hopes that when his son grows up he will be able to pass down the art to him.

Mwangangi appreciates how social media has been a boost to his business by posting his goods on his page as well as sharing in groups that have the targeted consumer base.

“With the advancement in technology as a business owner, you have to catch up or be left behind. Thanks to my wife we have been able to post in groups whereby we get many customers such as Kitengela Mums and we are able to grow tremendously.

We are also in the process of setting up our business on Google Maps and Google and with that am sure our business will witness great success,” he said with a smile on his face.

Following the introduction of the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC), the Mwangangis have also received students who are curious about the artefacts and how they were traditionally used such as the calabash and how such artefacts are made.

Mwangangi notes that his main challenge comes about during the transportation of his goods as some get damaged along the way.

Dust, which is synonymous with Kitengela makes his items look worn out due to the area getting constantly swamped in a dust storm.

There are also individuals who do not value their artwork and undervalue the prices that they have set.

He encourages people to change their mental attitude towards traditional artefacts and welcome such artefacts in their homes since many have proven to be safe in the kitchen and reduce the chances of common health ailments associated with steel cooking pans that we are now witnessing.

“Traditionally our ancestors used to cook with pots made of clay and cooking spoons which you could trace the trees that have been cut to provide such and they would be healthy.

If more people would embrace such then certain ailments that are said to be caused by stainless steel could not be an issue,” he said.

The business has enabled them to live a comfortable life and even venture into agribusiness. He urges those who want to start a business to start small and grow from there.

“Love your work and don’t be ashamed of the work that you are doing. If you give it 100 per cent attention you will see results and understand that some days can be tough but never give up,” Stephen concludes as he continues arranging his items.

By Vivian Mbinya

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