KISII (GUSII) SOAPSTONE CARVING PROJECT
We are extremely excited to announce our newest partnership with the 'Gusii' tribe of Kenya!
Back in April this year, Alastair Scott (Co-founder of KOY) travelled from his family home in Nairobi, 8 hours South West to 'Kisii Land', which is where the Gusii tribe originates.
Below you will see a picture of Alastair Scott shaking hands with Elkana Ong'esa, a soapstone artist who's work has been presented in museums around the world.
As you may know, our clothing collections/designs are inspired by and named after tribes and communities in Kenya. These inspirations come from a variety of special tribal traditions within each community.
Since the official launch of KOY Clothing in December 2016, we have learned so much, and with greater knowledge, comes greater responsibility. The more we have learned about cultural influences in fashion, the more we have realised that many brands around the world use cultural inspirations within their designs. Not all of those brands give recognition to the cultures which inspired them. This was a chance for us to try and change this mindset and demonstrate to others the value of cultural inspiration. We do this by giving 5% of every purchase to projects within the communities of Kenya that our products are inspired by.
For example, you may have seen/heard of our work with the 'Maasai' tribe in Kenya and Tanzania, whereby we made the first ever official agreement between a brand and a Kenyan culture, known as the 'Maasai' (Read more in 'Our Story' page).
From our upbringing in Kenya (Alastair and Jimmy Scott), we have been surrounded by fascinating cultures, each one encompassing a unique heritage worth sharing with the world. In this case, we would like to share with you the inspiration being our 'Gusii' (Pink) collection. Soapstone carving has been an old tradition in Kisii dating back to the 1700's, and it has developed a lot since then. Soapstone has a stunning natural pink colour shade, hence the pink colour of our 'Gusii' collection. Elkana Ong'esa was brought up in a family of soapstone carvers and the art has been in his family for generations.
He is quite a well-known artist now and has even produced pieces for many museums around the world. Mr Ong'esa has started a Museum in Kisii to educate people on, and preserve Kisii cultural heritage - including soapstone carvery. He is looking to move the museum to a bigger premises just outside the city as he is running out of space.
Mr Ong'esa spends a lot of time training people in the art of soapstone carving (Kenyans and internationals) and he collaborates with the TICAH (Trust for Indigenous Cultures and Health).
We feel this is a fantastic project to support as it provides work and training for the local Gusii people, in the hope for them to be able to carve and sell their own soapstone carvings. This project also helps to preserve cultural heritage and will eventually build Elkana his dream museum!