Bone Crafters of Kibera

In Kibera, a sprawling slum in Kenya's capital Nairobi these men are turning trash into cash, recycling cow bones to make unique jewelry, cutlery and many other accessories. 

Victorious Crafts is a bone processing plant located in the Soweto West village of Kibera. This group is made up of over 20 artists, each specializing in a different task. This workshop was formed in 2006 by Jack – a young man who saw an opportunity to create employment among the youths and encourage them to be self-reliant.

The group get their bones from local butcher storefronts and slaughter houses in Nairobi. The recycling process involves various steps depending on what’s being made. Generally, the bones have to be boiled to clean them up and also washed using a bleaching chemical to remove impurities and make them white. Bones will then be cut into various designs, they will be grinded, softened and put in a black dye to make some patterns or just to change their color.

Much of the work done here involves a lot white chalk-like dust filling up the environment around. Although the workers are very much aware that this might cause respiratory diseases, not so much is taken into consideration since they are used to the pollution around them and they will work all day without any form of protection like wearing dust masks. Their products are mostly exported to Europe, America and the Middle East, with very few being sold to the local collectors and buyers. 

A portrait of Dennis Ojala who has been a bone craftsman for 7 years at Victorious Crafts. Much of the work done here involves a lot white chalk-like dust filling up the environment around. PHOTO/BRYAN JAYBEE
Paul Were Abura, a bone artist at Victorious Crafts. PHOTO/BRYAN JAYBEE
A signboard at the entrance of the bone processing workshop in Kibera. PHOTO/BRYAN JAYBEE
Workers sorting out bones which are to be cut and softened to make earrings. PHOTO/BRYAN JAYBEE
Workers at Victorious Crafts - an informal bone processing factory in Kibera. PHOTO/BRYAN JAYBEE
Left: Spoons made from cow bones left to dry near a pile of white dust after being dyed. This is a process that creates desired patterns on the product. Left: Bones cut into triangular shapes which will be used to make earrings. PHOTO/BRYAN JAYBEE

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