Kibera Artisan Who Helped Transform Ksh 700M Mombasa Park

  • A collage image of Samuel Ochanda (LEFT) and sculptures at the Kibarani dumpsite in Mombasa County (RIGHT).
    A collage image of Samuel Ochanda (LEFT) and sculptures at the Kibarani dumpsite in Mombasa County (RIGHT).
    File
  • Across the globe, Kibera is known as one of the biggest slums famed for its makeshift structures that house hundreds of thousands of Kenyans.

    However, one Samuel Ochanda is changing the narrative of his community by transforming the rusty iron sheets into magnificent pieces of artwork retailing for millions.

    In an Interview on Ramogi TV on Thursday, April 28, the artisan revealed that he started his workshop in 2014 and has been able to grow his business over the years while sharpening his craft.

    A collage image of Kibera slums in Nairobi (LEFT) and Frog sculptures by Samuel Ochanda (RIGHT).
    A collage image of Kibera slums in Nairobi (LEFT) and Frog sculptures by Samuel Ochanda (RIGHT).
    File

    His creativity has given him a rare and enviable chance to work with various international organisations and business tycoons in the country.

    In 2020, Ochanda was among the artisans who took part in the transformation of the Ksh700,000,000 Kibarani dumpsite in Mombasa County into a recreational park after the intervention of a Mombasa businessman popularly known as Asuu.

    Upon leveling of the dumpsite, his artwork was put across the 20-acre piece of land.

    However, the artisan noted that it took him time to perfect his art before getting recognition, recalling how many would ridicule his work as they viewed animal sculptures as 'weird'.

    "The problem is that many ask what people will think of them if they have these pieces of art in their houses. However, there are those who are embracing it as art.

    "If you look at State House, the metallic pieces look beautiful when you see President Uhuru Kenyatta walking past them with his visitors," he stated.

    In 2018, his work gained international fame with some of his pieces featured at the Magic Valley Arts Council competition where he emerged third.

    An image of metallic Zebra sculptures made by Samuel Ochanda.
    An image of metallic Zebra sculptures made by Samuel Ochanda.
    Art Roamers

    The artisan stated that the competition was a motivating factor when seeking to make entry into the international market.

    According to the art roamers website, Ochanda's sculpture of an elephant costs Ksh1,158,500 ($10,000) with that a giraffe going for Ksh926,800.

    He noted that the price of his artwork is determined by the time spent in making the pieces and the material used in the process.

    "Our prices vary depending on the size and the time taken. A sculpture of a frog playing a guitar is Ksh5,000 because it takes 3 hours to make. But for an animal like a crocodile, we can sell it to individuals at Ksh90,000," he disclosed.

    Despite his success, Ochanda notes that his business hit a snag in 2020 after the global pandemic hit the country. He added the recent ban on scrap metal business by President Kenyatta made the cost of his artwork rise further turning away many interested buyers.

    He hopes that the scrap metal ban due to be lifted on May 1 by the government will boost his business in the coming months.

    President Uhuru Kenyatta alongside Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho at the Kibarani dumpsite in Mombasa County in 2019.
    President Uhuru Kenyatta alongside Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho at the Kibarani dumpsite in Mombasa County in 2019.
    PSCU