Kitengela is known for Kitengela Glass founded by Nani Croze in 1981 and Kitengela Hot Glass owned by Anselm Croze, her son. Kitengela Hot Glass and Kitengela Glass are separate ventures operated by Anselm and Nani Croze respectively. They have different galleries, furnaces, and workshops, but share the grounds. In addition, there is also the Kintengela Glass Research and Training Center. Anyone who wants to learn to make glass sculptures can take a course offered at the Kitengela Glass Research and Training Center.
Kitengela Glass is a like a gem and a treasure trove. One can find it at the end of the road opposite the Nairobi National Park on the cusp of the Kiserian ridge. It is in a dry spot of the plains south of Nairobi. But the Park has been a barrier to development. There are still no services such as proper roads, water, electricity, etc. However, the constant stream of visitors never stops. One can spot the unique and beautiful pool on the ridge of the gorge that looks like a Loch Ness monster swimming in it from the airplane when it approaches Nairobi’s Kenyatta airport.
In the 1970s the family of Nani Croze, owner of Kitengela Glass, visited the Athi-Kapiti Masailand for a picnic. The natural beauty so captivated the family that they decided to move there, and in 1979 Nani started the stained-glass studio.
Nani was the daughter of artist parents. While her father was a famous woodcut artist in Germany, Nani is a muralist. Therefore, the walls of hotels, hospitals, ministries, banks and office buildings in Kenya adorn her murals.
Over the last twenty-five years, the studio has evolved into a group of studios. Furthermore, the technique of stained glass, glass blowing, fusing, Dale de Verre, slumping, mosaic, Ferro-cement sculpture, wrought iron, pottery, beading, and woodwork shows immense versatility and creativity.
The stark contrast between the enchanting fantasy world at Kitengela and the surrounding area is astounding. A myriad of mosaic animals dot the grounds leading to the main entrance. Also, giant misshapen statutes pepper the wildly entertaining and rough road to Kitengela Glass. Upon arrival at the gate, feel the magic by following the furnaces, red rooftops, psychedelic buildings and the variety of domestic animals grazing or roaming around.
Mosaic artwork made using glass, bottle tops, and ceramic tiles fill the galleries. In addition, there are ornamented mirror frames, magnificently colorful chandeliers, misshapen bottles, delicate beadworks, glass wind bells and lamp shades, household glassware, and innumerable other items. Also, there are secret mosaic pathways that lead to niches of busy artisans who transform glass, scrap materials and an assortment of other metals into beautiful artworks, homeware, and jewelry.
Kitengela uses recycled glass to make all the glassworks. Moreover, walls, sculptures, and other items incorporate every empty bottle and its caps and even broken tableware. Kitengela even reuses the smallest shards. The famous Masai beadwork comes from Kitengela Glass. The recycled bead shower curtains are very attractive and are believed to keep out mosquitoes.
Kitengela Glass helps individuals make a living through their talent and artistic abilities. It has trained up to fifty people in the various disciplines since its inception. They work in the studios as caretakers, guards, cook or housekeepers. They receive on-going training and employment. Many of them live in the area in the different cottages and houses. It is like a tiny village community.
Corporate social responsibility
Nani and her husband Eric are ardent supporters of access to education for everyone. They have been promoting and funding grant programs for school fees and providing guidance and space for adults in need of academic training. They are also committed to maintaining the landscape by planting trees, limiting waste, and promoting renewable energy sources. Moreover, they passionately care about the local community who benefit from the expertise and income that the enterprise has brought to their lives.
Kitengela Glass also have recreation activities such as horse riding classes, swimming, felting and glass mosaic classes to brighten up the weekend. It also offers quiet time from the buzz of the city life. Every Saturday mornings there is a glass blowing show and a visit to the other workshops.
There is a mosaic pathways that reaches a swaying suspense bridge. It is erected above a valley, which links Kitengela to Silole Sanctuary. Crossing this bridge may only appeal to those with an adventurous spirit. Across the bridge is the Masai Lodge that serves drinks, meals and offers other amenities and exciting activities.
Kitengela Hot Glass
Nani’s son Anselm Croze owns Kitengela Hot Glass. He went to Holland in 1991 for training. For his creations, people call him the “dream merchant.” Kitengela Hot Glass offers commercial hand blown glassware.
The red-brick dome is the heart of Kitengela Hot Glass and is the core of his studio. The dome has around 1,000 stars made of glass inserted into the ceiling that feels like a planetarium.
The studio employs 35 people. A skilled team of artisans makes hundreds of objects designed by Anselm. Artworks include individual as well as entire collections custom designed for hotels, restaurants, camps, lodges and other corporate clients throughout East Africa.
Some of their more prestigious clients include the Fairmont, Tamarind and Carnivore, Sarova, Serena, Cheli & Peacock, Safari Park Hotel, Abercrombie & Kent, Hilton, Hotel Intercontinental, &Beyond, Kempinsky, Ole Sereni, Sankara, Crowne Plaza, Peponi Hotel, Asilia Lodges, Sheraton, and others. Interestingly, the restaurant at Masai Lodge across the bridge from Kitengela Glass also features one of Anselm’s chandelier designs as its centerpiece.
The pragmatism of the ‘jua kali’ artisans inspires Kitengela Hot Glassworks. Using discarded items, they make stoves and lamps from old cans, shoes from tires and other needed objects. Anselm elaborates that their ethos ingrains this kind of innovation and that they have just taken it a step further.
Kitengela Glass Research and Training Center
Kitengela Training Center is a fun place for anyone who has an interest in art and design. It offers quirkier one off pieces using recycled materials to create an array of unique objects.
On entering Kitengela Glass Research and Training Center, one is bound to see large sculptures that are 20 feet tall dominating the landscape. An array of mosaic sculptures litters the environment. The Center is a beautiful place full of various art studios, showrooms and a workshop with an enormous brick furnace where high-quality stained glass, jewelry, architectural items, art pieces, and sculptures are made and sold. Odd shaped buildings with low ceilings are everywhere.
The Center has five beautiful rooms that are either used by people attending the courses or simply for groups of friends looking for a weekend getaway. The houses have undulating walls, mosaic cladding, and stained glass windows.
Classes at the Center are for anyone who wants to learn about glass blowing, mosaic tiling, stained glass making or sculptures. They are tailor made to suit the needs and level of expertise of the participants.
From Uhuru Highway turn right onto Langata Road. Drive till Bomas of Kenya and then turn left onto Magadi Road. Before getting to Ongata Rongai, take the left turn onto the Africa Nazarene University Road. Tarmac surface ends at the University and turns into a rough, bumpy ride across shrubby terrain but with a panoramic view of Nairobi cityscape across the National Park. Follow the Kitengela Glass signs.