The IMANI Workshop   Leave a comment

Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Eldoret Kenya

Located just a few kilometers from downtown Eldoret sits a small warehouse.  Inside, dozens of people are at work producing pieces of artwork for sale both in Kenya and abroad.  These people may never have met each other if not for a shared trait; they are all infected with HIV.  This is the IMANI Workshop.

The IMANI workshop was formed for the purpose of giving hope to local patients with HIV.  Despite the virus affecting a large percentage of the population here, a stigma still exists that makes it difficult for infected individuals to find gainful employment.  This is important not only from the standpoint of basic living expenses, but also for the added expenses incurred from living with HIV.  The workers are able to make a comfortable living wage that allows them to live healthy productive lives. 

An array of crafts are produced at IMANI including pottery and clay sculpture, papyrus journals, clay and paper beads, clothing items, and carvings.  Products are sold both in Kenya and abroad through the IU Partnership.  One of the fascinating stories of the workshop is the creative way that raw materials are selected and procured. 

    

The clay for the ceramics shop is largely generated from discarded chunks of clay collected from local manufacturers that is reclaimed and processed back into workable material over the span of five weeks.  The clay is molded into animals, figurines, and even grotesque shapes meant to represent the effects of untreated HIV.

   

Colorful paper beads are made by cutting strips of old magazines, coating them with glue and rolling them into to various shapes.  The resulting beads are a mix of colors as diverse as the pages from which they were rolled.  The beads are strung into elaborate necklaces and other jewelry or used to decorate the cloth work made by other craftsmen. 

All of the profits from the IMANI Workshop go directly to the workers who greet visitors with open arms seeming more excited to show you their craft than to try and sell you their products.  They do not hide the fact that they are HIV+, but rather are proud to share their success despite their affliction.  It is a remarkable endeavor that is enriching lives and truly giving hope people who sorely need it.  If my schedule permits, I may have the chance to spend a little more time at the workshop before I have to leave.

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Posted May 3, 2009 by chrislux in Travel

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