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Urban Life in Kenya / Art of Recycling

Recycled Structures: Kitengela Glass

"What is of no use today will be useful tomorrow." —Kenyan proverb

Embodying innovation and resourcefulness in art and design, artists from Kitengela Glass create habitable dwellings, sculptures, furniture, and other decorative and useful objects from discarded materials found around their community located just outside of Nairobi National Park.

Photos by Preston Scott, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution

Nani Croze first established Kitengela in the early 1980s as a stained-glass studio, but over the years it has evolved and expanded with many Kenyan artists now working with recycled glass bottles, scrap metal, broken pottery, wastepaper, and more. Even the smallest shards of supposed trash are reborn at Kitengela as sun-catchers, mosaics, and jewelry—symbols of a place where people, nature and art express renewed life found in each other every day.

As part of the 2014 Folklife Festival, Kitengela artists constructed a freeform structure on the National Mall using recycled bottles, discarded plates and other household objects collected by Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage staff.


Brothers Patrick and Isaac Kibe are self-taught muralists who specialize in turning waste materials into masterpieces. Using recycled bottles, tin, bottle caps, broken tiles, glasses, and other resources, they produce whimsical and fantastic homes and other structures.

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