We see the disabled prospering today in all walks of life for example Oscar Pistorius, the famous athlete. In our very communities lie these people, barely bettered from enjoying the gift of life itself by disability, and managing to strive through what many consider depraved.
On our arrival at after a short drive from our resting place, we were welcomed and introduced to Ronald Jimbo, who was our designated guide for the day. Completed in 1994, Bombolulu Workshops and Cultural Centre is home to some of Africa’s most beautiful art and craft pieces, and all these are skilfully and effortlessly made by the locals, most of whom are disabled. Our tour involved the wood carving section, the jewellery section, textiles, the mobility workshop, a visit through the replica of homesteads of the nine tribes in Kenya, and finally, the gift shop.
Our tour of Bombolulu began with a wood carving showcase and this was all in hands of one man, whose movement around was only enabled by a wheelchair. He sat quietly at his work station, carefully carving the wood into the desired shape. Enthusiastic as we were, we asked our guide, Mr. Jimbo Ronald, if we could engage with these pieces which he gladly accepted. Some of them were worn, others simply marvelled at and the rest became part of a small photo-shoot. During this small session, he revealed to us some of the materials that are used to make these pieces. These include; camel bones, cow horns, and wood from artificial trees that are replanted once cut down.
We then proceeded to the jewellery section, in which we were surrounded by such dedication to recreating beauty from recycled materials by the locals. They use recyclable materials because they are readily available hence cost effective, and also in attempt to protect the ecosystem. There isn’t but a single sign of slacking off from the workers, and this, Ronald attributed to the importance they give to their work. This is because it is their source of livelihood. After the jewellery section, we had brief encounters with the mobility workshop where mobility gear for example wheel chairs are made, and the textile unit in which beautiful clothes and garments are designed using various African prints.
At this point, we wondered whether our tour had come to an end when Ronald suddenly revealed an entrance to the homesteads of the nine tribes, which are known in Swahili as “Miji Kenda Kaya”. Some of these tribes include the Kikuyu, Luo, Masai, Giryama, and Swahili. The tour began on an uncanny note though. This is because we were surrounded by shrines, red string which was believed by the people to have offered protection against evil spirits, and small idols that are believed to harbour the spirits of the dead. It felt like an African horror movie coming to life. We were eager to move on for fear of moving away with some of these ‘spirits’. However, the tour around the homesteads was insightful and eye-opening since we were introduced to new cultures that we could relate to our very own in Uganda.
After this whole experience, we have renewed hope in humanity attributed to this initiative to have a workshop that caters for those less fortunate. Furthermore, the people of Bombolulu are a self-sustaining community given that their financial and social livelihood is all catered for by the centre. In addition, the use of recyclable materials and replanting of trees implores us to pick a leaf from this community. After all, challenges are only a small thorn in the beautiful rosy bush that life is.