Retail Therapy With a Purpose in Nairobi

3 min Read March 1, 2024

Retail Therapy With a Purpose in Nairobi

With international departures out of Jomo Kenyatta Airport usually scheduled late at night, our clients often have a few hours to spare in Nairobi. Fortunately, the city offers a wide variety of amusements, not the least of which is good old retail therapy. What’s more, you will quite likely be making a positive impact while you’re at it. Around the world, the artisan sector keeps traditional skills and handcrafts alive by creating jobs to countless artisans and their extended families, so here are a few suggestions to get you on your way:

  • Comprised of 18 rooms in an old Kikuyu house, Utamaduni is a collection of “shops” where local artisans, vendors, small businesses, entrepreneurs, and communities sell their wares and colorful crafts in a calm and welcoming setting. One such venture is Kenana Knitters, which employs over 300 women to knit adorable stuffed animals, home goods and knitwear.
  • Similarly showcasing the colour, spirit & talent of Kenya all under one roof, Langata Links  has been serving residents and international visitors alike for over 20 years. The inventory is an assortment traditional and modern goods with something for everyone: from greeting cards and beauty products to food and wine, from fabrics, rugs and baskets to luggage and safari gear.
  • The owners of House of Treasures Emporium have trawled markets, souks & bazaars worldwide, collecting hand-crafted items, unique artifacts, and contemporary pieces. They also serve as an outlet for local artisans like the women of Bush Princess, who create elegant handbags and accessories from locally sourced leather, incorporating beautiful brass fittings, and delicate beadwork.
  • In a similar vein, KOBE (the Swahili word for the tough shelled sea turtle) strives to provide a livelihood for hundreds of Maasai women and support single mothers, orphans, and widows in Kenya. Following fair trade principles, hand painted ceramic beads are used to make bracelets, necklaces, and earrings as well as beaded belts, bags, and wallets – even the first Maasai beaded Apple Watch bands.
  • Kazuri, means “small and beautiful” in Swahili, and in 1975 Kazuri Beads started in a tiny experimental workshop to create sustainable employment for disadvantaged locals. Today the factory , on what used to be part of the Karen Blixen Estate, produces top quality ceramic jewelry and pottery. On a tour of the workshop, visitors can watch these miniature marvels being handcrafted with astounding attention to detail.
  • Ocean Sole is a social enterprise devoted to removing trash from the oceans and producing art that supports marine conservation. Collecting discarded flip-flops provides steady income for hundreds of Kenyans, and a tour of the Ocean Sole workshop offers a captivating journey into the world of upcycled art and environmental conservation.
  • Matbronze Art Gallery and Foundry  is a family business striving to capture the beauty of Africa’s wildlife in handmade bronze sculptures while Safaria Silver  produces an elegant selection of handmade, pure silver jewelry.  Surrounded by a beautiful wildlife inspired garden, the Matbronze Cafe is a stunning place to enjoy a coffee, lunch, or afternoon tea.
  • Founded in 2012, Circle Art Gallery has recently moved to a larger space as it continues to promote contemporary art from Eastern Africa and grow the art market for East African artists. Through group and solo exhibitions, as well as participation in international art fairs, the gallery has increased visibility for established and emerging artists, both internationally and at home.
  • Another world class gallery, One Off Contemporary, has exclusive representation within Eastern Africa of some of the greatest artists in the region. Works tend to be of a more sophisticated nature than the usual tourist artifacts and the ever changing Sculpture Garden encompasses traditional forms in wood, stone, and metal as well as glass, paper, and mosaic.
  • RefuSHE’s Artisan Collective Shop features hand-dyed scarves and accessories made by young refugee women. 100% of proceeds from the sale of Artisan Collective products support RefuSHE’s mission to protect, educate, and empower orphaned, unaccompanied, and separated refugee girls in Nairobi.

All this is not to say that Nairobi doesn’t also offer its fair share of straight up shopping centers, malls, and plazas. The rather ironically named Village Market, for example, is a vast complex with an eclectic mix of contemporary stores, restaurants and entertainment, and ideal for those little emergency purchases on arrival (who hasn’t forgotten their polarized sunglasses?), or a quick manicure before take-off.

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