When you see an accessory such as this Black Bone Collar Necklace in its final form, it is almost impossible to imagine all the steps involved in getting it there. This necklace was designed by the contemporary accessories brand ZikoAfrika and made by staff at the Bombolulu Workshop and Cultural Centre in Mombasa. The Bombolulu Workshop works with more than 100 men and women with disabilities to create jewellery, textile, wood and leather products, some of which are for export.
Sisi King heard of the Bombolulu Workshop and Cultural Centre years before she started ZikoAfrika with her sister Elle. When the sisters established their jewellery company, they wanted to ensure that it was a socially responsible business and working with Bombololu Workshop was in line with this goal. All of ZikoAfrika’s brass chains are hand-made at the Bombololu Workshop. In addition to the Black Bone Collar Necklace, ZikoAfrika have made their Coin and Arrow necklaces at the Bombololu Workshop.
ZikoAfrika have now been working with the Bombolulu Workshop for more than one and a half years. It is really important to Sisi and Elle that they go and visit the workshops they work with, to not only understand their processes but also to have a relationship with craftspeople who make their products. Further, they are not content with simply saying they are a socially responsible brand, they like to go and see where and in what conditions their products are being made.
ZikoAfrika works with various workshops but Sisi says she has never been to a workshop that has as good an atmosphere as the Bombolulu Workshop. “I think it is partly because everyone there has some different kind of ability and there is no judgement whatsoever. Everyone is just doing an incredible job and surpassing any limitation society has placed on them.”
In her last visit, Sisi was so amazed by how many steps were involved in making their Black Bone Collar Necklace that she documented the process. You can see it here:
1. The bone is first boiled and left to dry in the sun.
2. It is then split and sanded.
3. A template is used to get the correct shape, which is then cut and sanded.
4. The cut piece is compared to the template and sanded again.
5. A hole is then drilled on each end for the fittings.
6. The piece is then boiled with OMO (a washing powder) for several hours to remove any residual oils.
7. It is then bleached for 24 hours before being dyed with hair dye.
8. The dyed piece is then polished and taken to the assembly area.
9. Alice Mumbua adds handmade chain and the bone collar is complete.
Elle Mulindi-King in the Black Bone Collar Necklace. Photographs courtesy of Sisi King of ZikoAfrica.