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Breathing life and beauty into bones

While most youths dream of getting a formal job, it wasn’t so for three youths from Mathare.

Using the little cash they had, the trio, Onesmus Ngau, Peter Otieno and Sammy Nyaga joined hands to start the business of turning bones into treasure, and have been doing so for the last ten years.

Working under the banner, Mathare Youth Talent, Mr Ngau, Mr Otieno and Mr Nyaga make ornaments and utensils from bones.

Venture

Mr Ngau said he had no prior knowledge while venturing into the business.

“I learnt the skill from my friends and since I did not have a job, I opted for this one to sustain my family,’’ he added. 

They prefer camel bones which they get from camel slaughterhouses in Eastleigh and Burma market because of their strength, while soup makers provide them with cow and goat bones.

Getting the beautiful products on the market entails various processes. First, the bones are washed and boiled to remove fat. This makes it easier to shape them. 

Mr Ngau said they then use a grinder to shape them and sizes. The next step is smoothing where they use sand paper depending on the work at hand. He said there are four types of sand paper.

The item then undergoes a chemical process to whiten it. At this stage, hydrogen peroxide or potassium permanganate is used if they want to colour it brown or black.

This is followed by waxing. Here, wax is applied to the bone to make the desired decorations. Polishing is done either by a grinder or a clean rag.

Finally, another chemical is applied on the product to brighten it, after which it is ready for sale.

Their products which include bracelets, necklaces, bangles, earrings and spoons, folks, salt shakers and pots are sold at Maasai Market and Globe Cinema.

Challenges

They said their biggest challenge was that majority of Kenyans were yet to embrace locally made products.

“It is sad that most of my friends have closed their workshops due to lack of a market,’’ added Mr Otieno.

Also, the dust from the bones poses a health hazard and so they have to wear protective gear. However, it can be sold and mixed with fish bones and used to make for animal feed such as dog food.