Soapstone Carving at Tabaka
Tabaka is located about 24 Kilometres from Kisii town and is renowned for its unique Kisii soapstone rocks. On our journey from Rusinga Island to Naivasha for an overnight stay; we made a brief stopover at Tabaka, at Kistone Art Gallery. Here we met Mr. Joshua Kariuki Ouma who has been in the soapstone business for 15 years at Tabaka.
Joshua elaborated that they buy the Kisii rocks from miners who get them from Nyatiki Hills which are usually edgy, brownish and irregular. Thereafter, the carvers workmanship begins using small axes and chisels to show the rock’s soft white quality. Depending the order placed by the client or Joshua’s creativity, he transforms the stone into the shape and design he desires.
This transformation involves cutting the stones from large boulders using a saw and other simple hand tools. After cutting, they prepare a sketch of the shape they desire. Thereafter, they start carving the piece into the desired piece using a small axe-like tool; this process is done carefully and systematically and is usually the most critical and tricky part of the process.
Once the rock has been carved into the desirable piece, a process of sanding is undertaken that involves smoothing the piece with a chisel. After sanding, the piece is washed to remove the loose dust and chippings while smoothing with sandpaper.
They can choose to add colour or paint the statues or figurines to give them a more appealing look to potential clients. The entire process can take an entire day to make one piece; right from cutting to waxing.
One ready, they take the products to the workshop. Joshua manages a small workshop as a business enterprise for soapstone handcrafts that has helped him educate his children and employ works to sustain their livelihood.
His enterprise comprises of both men and women. They interchange jobs but mostly the men get the stones from the quarries and carve the pieces into the desired shape while the women involve polishing and washing the finished products as well as applying a shinny cream wax.
Joshua told us that most soapstone handicrafts are sold as finished products in form of carvings to tourists, other dealers in Nairobi and to exporters.
If you are staying in Kisii or passing by, make sure you stop by Tabaka and pop in by Kistone Art Gallery and buy some souvenirs and gift items and home decorations. Contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.