On the opening day of Afrika Handmade 2016, Fabiana Alcojor and Roberto Gerosa of Seedling Kenya gladly did TV interviews under their baobab tree installation. And when I spoke to Fabiana about their designs, not only was her pride and passion palpable, it was contagious.
With a background in architecture, Fabiana and Roberto try to find innovative ways to use the available resources in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner. Based in Kilifi, they create beautiful light installations from baobab pods and other sustainable, natural materials such as palm leaves.
When I complimented Fabiana on the designs she was quick to point out, “it is not my work, it is nature.” A similar sentiment was quoted in the Afrika Handmade catalogue: “Everything in nature is a result of millions of years of evolution, which shaped its forms in a perfect balance of functional and aesthetic values”.
The Seedling Kenya founders work with, and are training, a team of four women and in their workshop, they endeavour to make the most of what baobab pods have to offer. Once the baobab flesh—rich in antioxidants and vitamin C—is removed, some is used to make their daily tea and the rest preserved to make juice or marmalade.
The empty baobab pod is then smoothed down with a bicycle wheel-powered sanding machine, decorated by hand, and painted with environmentally friendly, water-based paints.
During the 2016 Afrika Handmade exhibition, baobab pods with a more traditional look were hung around the ‘baobab tree’ and a little way off, this contemporary chandelier design was displayed.
On Sunday 2 October, 2016 Craft Afrika opened the third installation of the Afrika Handmade Gallery to exhibit work from regional artisans and designers. The two-week event at Alliance Française, Nairobi, presented designs from home décor and textile companies; a prefabricated living pod from Two by Four; and a selection of artwork from the One Off Contemporary Art Gallery. Maridadi.co partnered with photographer Brian Siambi (better known on social media as @urbanskript) to feature a selection of designs from the exhibition.