When German art brut exponent Nani Croze settled in the desert across the road from Nairobi National Park in the 1970s, she had no reprieve from the scorching Kenyan sun. There were few trees, so the artist began making sculptures to create shade.
“[It] started as a pioneer homestead and grew into an oasis,” Croze has said. Now, the Kitengela settlement is a community, a glassworks, airbnb’s, and a sculpture garden that’s something like a cross between the splendorous architecture of Antoni Gaudí and a Hobbit village.
The settlement is a wonderland with hidden works of art around every corner. The sculptures depict a fantastical world filled with dragons, butterflies and abstract, multicolored giants. In spite of the fact that every staircase and windowsill has been painted and molded to the artists’ satisfaction, Kitengela appears to have grown organically out of the earth.
Kitengela’s purpose is to improve the community. Its most obvious contribution is aesthetic beauty, but it also gives back in more tangible ways. the Croze’s have partnered with hospitals and charities, giving away their own work.. The materials used in Kitengela’s sculptures is all found and recycled, and they are as likely to be built by creative locals as by professional artists. They also host workshops & apprenticeships at Kitengela.
Kitengela has turned into a sort of poster child for creative entrepreneurship —Anselm’s studio on the property employs about 90 people, Visitors are also welcome to stay at Kitengela. The Croze family have several cottages available for short-term rentals, but be aware of the baboons, Sykes monkeys, hyrax, and more are just as commonly seen.
Know Before You Go
From direction Nairobi (at Bomas of Kenya roundabout) to Galleria Mall junction, take Magadi Rd. left. Then after 5km take left on Masai Lodge Rd., opposite Ola petrol station just b4 Ongata Rongai. After about 1km (at the top of a dip after some speed bumps), turn right on the tarmac. Ignore Google if it tells you to go straight at this point. Take the next left at Manna Bible. Then you pass Africa Nazarene on your right - tarmac ends here. Then carry on (over a metal bridge) till the mosque just after Tuala, then take the first major left after Tortoise Inn (ignoring Google again from this point - if you reach the huge SGR tunnel you’ve gone too far by 150m) - follow signs to ‘Kitengela Glass’. Thx