Wood Carving Products of various designs



The production of wood carving in Kenya is associated with the Akamba ethnic community of the arid and semi-arid eastern region of Kenya. The art of woodcarving dates back to 450 years ago. In other words, it is a perfected skill, which has been passed on from one generation to the next. The young apprentice works among the seasoned master carvers; learning all the techniques of the craft form splitting the timber to carving and hand polishing the finished forms. Many of the artisans specialize in sculpting a series of African forms, including the exotic wide range of wild animals found in Kenya and East Africa. All carvings must meet rigid standards of quality for the export market. While production norms are maintained, no two pieces are ever exactly the same. Traditionally, the women role is to sand paper the finished product as part of quality touch in terms of coming up with high quality products.


The art of woodcarving as one would rightly put it is in Akamba people's blood. The carvers age range from 18-65 years. Kenya has over 60,000 highly skilled craftsmen who produce tones of woodcarvings a month. Woodcarving as an income generating activity supports about 350,000 people. The woodcarving production is by nature labor intensive. The craftsmen model each form using simple tools made from animal hide, local wood and spring steel fashioned into adzes and knives. No machinery is used in the process of transferring a tree- truck into hundreds of items both decorative and functional. The woodcarving products are very popular with the tourists visiting Kenya.


Kenya's woodcarving items have over the years been exported to almost all parts of the world. The wood carvings products have not only acted as a source of income for a large number of Akamba community but have also been a commodity that has over the years earned Kenya a substantial amount of foreign exchange. This has been realized through the sale of a wide range of decorative and utility products such as the animal figures, traditional people masks, bookends, salad servers and many other items.


Some of the wood that the carvers use or cut down have now come to be enlisted as endangered species and for that reason, the government has come up with stringent measure that requires planting of at least two trees for each tree fallen or cut. Besides that, the government has also put tough measures, which require issuance of license before any tree is cut or fallen down. These measures are aimed at avoiding further deforestation in Akamba arid and semi-arid areas and the entire country in general. According to the available research/statistics, the carvers need for wood account to 10% of the national consumption of hard wood.


Due to the sensitivity attached to the continued rampant of cutting down of indigenous trees, the Government issue license to recognized wood carvers' co-operatives that are willing to operate within the government forest conservation laid rules in line with a new parliamentary bill that puts emphasis on community based forest management as a main strategy for securing the country's forest and placing it under cheap and effective structure. In light of the on going awareness, more and more people involved in the trade are being encouraged to use carvings of Mwarubaine (neem), jacaranda, mango, grevillea among others.


In order to support the government in this endeavors, Crafts of Africa have come up with an initiative of  educating the artisan communities on the need to plant more indigenous trees as well as fast growing trees as a way of conserving our forests for posterity.