Happy voices raised in conversation, punctuate the whizz of bone grinding against machine and the otherwise quiet, intent atmosphere; as skillful artisans concentrate on turning recycled bone, horn, brass and wood into perfectly finished, unique, beautifully crafted accessories, home-ware, jewellery, the list goes on.
But how did it start? Well for that, let’s introduce you to Jack.
He started Victorious Bones with a group of friends in 2006, but his journey started way earlier, at the tender age of fifteen. A cheeky truant prank brought him from up-country to Nairobi, where he planned to try to find his sister. But on arrival, a series of unfortunate events found him penniless and living on the streets in Kibera. He spent four years eking out a living however he could, mostly through collecting and selling plastic waste for recycling. He remembers it as a trying, challenging time;
“Street life is…It was hard, but it also made me really want to do something positive for myself and my friends.”
Finally one day, his luck changed when he had a chance encounter with his in-law who was a wood carver, who took him under his wing and trained him. This was the beginning. Jack fell in love with the work, the process of making with his hands, seeing the designs in his mind take shape. He laughs, shrugging his shoulders when we ask where the ideas come from;
“When I sleep, I think of designs!”
He wasn’t alone on his journey though, as 10 of his friends joined him in a merry-go round that saw them raise funds, buy tools and set up shop; the official beginning of Victorious Bones. In addition to wood, they began using recycled horn and brass in addition to bones from local butcheries. It was natural for the brand, as recycling was a passion Jack carried on from his time on the streets.
“I promised myself Victorious Bones would always be focused on social change, whether it’s our focus on recycling materials; our brass is melted down from moldings and padlocks… Or empowering people and doing good in society. We’ve trained so many in this craft. We even had a programme in Daadab Camp where we mentored 30… In total since we began in ’06, I’d say around 89 so far!”
His words ring true as we watch Joshua, here from the very beginning, deftly carving and polishing a piece of horn into a marvelous, perfect little turtle shape right before our eyes.
“I met Jack in 2006. I’d previously worked as a salesman, which is where I actually became interested in how the crafts I was selling were made. I learnt how to make jewellery, do woodwork…however the shop closed and I found myself unemployed. So when Victorious Bones started, I was fully on board!”
There’s an immediate smile when we ask Joshua what he loves most about his job, this brand…
“I can provide for my family, all five of my kids and I’m even able to help my brothers and sisters back home. I also started farming; I enjoy it and it’s a back-up and another source of income and…I love the work! Making the animal shapes and carving horn is my favourite thing to do. I also enjoy when we customize or brand pieces and I get to write on them.”
To end, we simply ask Jack, ‘What is Victorious Bones’ message all about?’
“Victorious Bones is…hope.”