Kisii Stone was discovered by Catholic Missionaries in early 1900 in the south Western part of Kenya. It is mined near the town of Kisii, in the district of Tabaka, a very dry part of the country, resulting in this hard variety of soapstone.
Initially the stone was used in it’s original white cream color with streaks of red. Then in 1960, tribe members started coloring the stone with extracts from bark, grass, soil and leaves.
Traditionally used to make cooking pots but over the last few decades, many more uses have surfaced, resulting in these beautiful decorative works of Ethnic Art.
Plates are used to serve porridge, called Ugali, which is made of Maize meal and is a staple food throughout Africa. Bowls are used to store food products such as millet, sorghum, beans etc.. It can also be used as a serving dish for food.
The rock is naturally occurring but, just like gold and other ores, it hides below the earth’s surface. The miners work in an open-cast mine under the African sun, breaking out blocks of stone in very much the same way as it was done hundreds of years ago, using fire, water, chisels and hammers. Because of the primitive tools and methods, much of the rock breaks and splinters and wastage is high. A block suitable for a large 18 inch bowl could take several attempts.
The blocks are cut into predetermined sizes, based on the final bowl size and sold to the artists. The blocks are transported on ox carts or pulled behind an ox or mule on a timber sled. The bowl then goes through several stages of refinement unto the very smooth finish is achieved. It is now ready for the artist to apply his skills.
The “paint” is actually a local dye, made form vegetable matter, mainly tree bark and leaves. This gives the dye those amazing color combinations that are unique to Africa. Each color is applied and sun dried one at a time.
Art that last forever….just like real friendships