Kisii Craftsmanship

From soapstone carvings to blacksmithing

By National Museums of Kenya

Pipe BowlNational Museums of Kenya

Meet the Kisii

The Kisii (also known as Abagusii or Gusii) are western Bantu speakers, who are settled in Kisii and Nyamira counties. They are known for their craftsmanship.

Soapstone carvings

In particular, the Kisii community is known for making soapstone carvings – a tradition which has continued to this day. Today, the Kisii soapstone carvings have received international recognition. 

The stone is mined and carved in Tabaka, South Mugirango, where several families specialize in this art. The craft attracts tourists and generates income for the community.

Small BasketNational Museums of Kenya

Basketry, pottery, and blacksmithing

Traditionally the Kisii also practiced basketry, pottery making, and blacksmithing. Baskets like this were made by both men and women, from the barks of the finger millet. They were used by women to carry food from the farm to the market.

HoeNational Museums of Kenya

Used for farming, this hoe (obokombe) was made by a blacksmith from iron ore. The iron was heated and hit into shape on a stone, then attached to a wooden handle made from wood of the ekebago tree.

AdzeNational Museums of Kenya

This adze (Ekoiyo) is made of a bent wooden haft fitted with an iron metal head. 

StoolNational Museums of Kenya

It was used for carving wooden objects such as stools and mortars.

Ankle Bells (1936)National Museums of Kenya

Traditionally, smithing was reserved for men, and blacksmiths became wealthy and influential.

Explore more

Learn about the communities of Kenya

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps