We work with so amazing people across all the villages and places where our camps are based. Through our projects, we often meet and get to know outstanding talent and dedicated individuals who over time have become part of the Camps family. Many of you have met and worked with these people through your travels and I am sure you will agree with me that they are heroes in their own right. Over the next six months, we will be featuring some of these people that mean so much to all of us…. For now meet Benson Gitari – Dreams of Kenyan Art…
I am Benson Gitari, 40 years of age and a frelance artist. I was born in a town called Baricho in Kirinyaga west District, Central Province Kenya. I started art as a hobby when I was 7 years old. I was the best in making sketches in lower classes in the school and as a consequence my teachers would make me do all the drawings and sketches of maps and diagrams for our classroom. As the son of a single mother, I was unable to afford to go to college. A friend had seen some of my paintings and invited me to come to Mombasa where I had a chance of making a living from doing what I love. I moved there in 1992 and managed to get work in hotels doing paintings and murals. It was not easy to make a living but I was determined and willing to make sacrifices.
I moved to Diani on the South Coast of Kenya in 2004 and a few years later, I met Elodie Yard, the wife of Dipesh who works with Camps International. She needed some sketches for some work she was doing and that’s how it all began. Before I knew it, Dipesh had approached me with the first of many crazy ideas to come. He asked me if I could build a lifesize whale shark and a life size elephant. I had never done any metal sculptures before but I said, why not and before I could even pack my bags properly, I found myself in the middle of theåÊ savanna at Camp Tsavo surrounded by all the animals I had been painting for years. The result:
Since then, all the Camps International schools and gap year students, add to this sculpture by adding snares collected from the bush and wrapping this elephant to tell the unfortunate story of poaching. It took a thousand snares to make this elephant – it takes just one to kill it… And then it got even more absurd when he told me we had to cover the whaleshark in flipflops and that there would be hundreds of volunteers to help me!
As this was our first attempt to make something on this scale with flipflops, it had to be redone a couple of years later and is now almost complete and soon to be mounted in Shimoni town. Since then, we have perfected these giant scupltures and I am very proud that one of them has become a landmark in Diani town:
And as many of you know, it’s not only the big stuff we discovered that we can make from flipflops. First it was keyrings, then jewellery, then balls and stationary holders and other small animal sculptures. Now we are a team of four people sitting on piles of flipflops collected from the Diani beaches, carving away and every summer, we get to share our new found love with students from all over the world
Recently, our work has begun to catch the eyes of other hotels and businesses who have started placing orders for keychains and other items. Then Amani Tiwi Beach Hotel asked if we could make 3 turtles for their hotel and they had to be as realistic as possible. Dipesh never says No!
What makes us even more proud is that not only are we helping to keep our marine environment clean, but all the work we do with Camp Kenya raises funds that are put straight back into their marine conservation projects. It’s the best kind of recycling anyone can do.. But the story doesn’t end there. I love painting but I love the challenge of new projects and now we might have just found a way to keep it on a canvas (of sorts) and keep using flipflops. Here’s our latest…