Art and architecture in the bush
Once in a while get out of Nairobi and see how beautiful and peaceful Kenya is. Kitengela Hot Glass is located in a planetarium dome off the beaten track on the edge of the Nairobi National Park near Ongata Rongai. This desolate area has far-reaching views over the city but the feeling of being at the end of the world. My in-laws, my family, and I decided to take a trip one Friday morning. As always we were not disappointed. As you drive the dirt track to the kiln one long stretch of wall is crowded with life size clay people. One with his head buried in the ground, legs akimbo, others snarling, smiling and sitting. Jewel coloured glass, beads, tiles and metal in all shapes and sizes adorns any and everything in sight. Mosaics litter the floor. Trees are bedecked with glass flowers, raindrops, butterflies and hearts. Strange sculpted animals tower 3 times human height as if guarding the surrounds from the neighbouring lions. The Kitengela buildings are more akin to fantasy than anything I have seen in this world. The main building, a giant brick dome is in fact a mammoth kiln. The bead workshop features antennae, another building is crowned with eagleâ€™s heads. Crammed into every nook and cranny of these buildings both inside and out is art. The art takes the form of the glass that is blown in the hot glass studio. Metal is worked into windows, doors, tables, and bespoke designs. Beads that are produced at 1000 a day, no two ever the same. And the walls. All the walls are alive with color: glass and bone and wood and metal. It is a fantastical and wonderful escape from Nairobi. After several stops and endless clicks, we were finally at our destination. We were received by Sanna, who was kind enough to show us around. We were happy to see the glass-blowing process and learn the procedure. Basically, The glass is then left to melt overnight as it is a requirement for it to be extremely hot before it can be blown. Once it has been blown, it is then molded into different designs and shapes as per requests or orders and decorated. Soon after they are transferred to the store, where they are temporarily stored until they are purchased or distributed to various shopping outlets within Nairobi. Most people come here to buy world-renowned glass at local prices, but you could easily spend half a day here just visiting. In true African style, you are invited to walk right into workshops. After going around, we decided to look for a beautiful spot where we could breathe the fresh air that was all around Kitengela Hot Glass and have our packed lunch, though there is a cafe on site where you can take your coffee and sit under the trees jangling with glass ornaments. All in all, it was a very informative and fun trip.