Kitengela, Kenya (AFP) Oct 31, 2010
Visit Nani Croze's glassworks outside Nairobi and you could be forgiven for thinking that like Alice, you've fallen down a rabbit-hole and landed in Wonderland.
Kitengela lies on a dustblown plain outside the Kenyan capital, just beyond a small village full of ramshackle bars.
A couple of kilometres further on, Croze's glassworks compound is a world of outsize sculptures, shiny mosaic paths and psychedelic buildings with wonky balconies that would not be out of place in Barcelona's Parc Guell.
Plants sprout from paint cans and spill over from oil drums. There are animals everywhere, dogs, dromedaries, pigs, ... you name it.
Croze, 67, is a muralist, and fervent admirer of Antonio Gaudi, who has spent more than half her life in Africa. She is a matronly figure with hair pinned up haphazardly, striking blue eyes, blue-tinted rimless spectacles and tanned cheeks.
She introduces her second husband Eric Krystall, calling him "a wonderful man, much better the the last one".
A renowned anti-apartheid campaigner and academic, Krystall says he "was" South African -- until his activism got him sent to England on a "one-trip passport".
Both are writing books, Krystall his memoirs and Croze a book "about how Kitengela happened".
Meals are taken outside in an aviary area, part huge cages for lovebirds - bought at the roadside in a rescue operation, and part open to attract local birds such as tiny red fire finches.
An Egyptian vulture with a distinctive yellow face, addressed affectionately as Vulchi, has taken up position under the table, waiting for lunch.
Most of the garden chairs are occupied by Nani's 10 dogs, indeed the Jack Russells insist on occupying the same chair as their mistress. Others, including a portly Ridgeback cross, have settled under dining chairs, making it impossible to pull them up to the huge concrete and glass table.
Posing for a TV interview amidst a flock of geese fighting over scraps of bread, Croze, who has spent the past 31 years in Kitengela, explains she grew up surrounded by animals. Her comments to camera are constantly interrupted by instructions to a pet or to livestock.
Everything here is recycled. A student called Kibe sporting a fedora made out of Kenyan beer cans transforms water bottles into cat proof bird feeders.
The jewel in the crown is the pool -- a mosaic creation complete with a three-headed dragon whose Loch-ness monster style tail separates the baby pool from the main one. Round the corner lies what Eric says is the world's only sauna built from bottles.
Bottles are a recurrent theme here.
"The slums should be built of bottles," Croze says, commenting that "Kenyans drink like fish", a declaration that draws a laugh from those in earshot.
Apart from the pool the rest of the place is quirky rather than luxurious.
The kitchen is a treasure trove of bird seed, dog leashes, spices, foodstuffs and emergency lamps.
A biogas plant transforms solid waste into cooking gas. Connected to it is a toilet block clad in silver mosaic.
The glass furnace is powered by steam injected used oil. Kitengela also has solar and wind power. When neither works there is a backup generator.
The nasturtiums in a home-made greenhouse, also built with bottles, inspire her to quote Goethe.
"Everybody wants a job here and the people who do have a job here love what they do," she said.
Edith Nyambura showed up here 12 years ago when she was just out of school looking a job, any job. She learned how to do mosaics and has just a book published about her work.
Nani employs some 80 staff and has founded a local school. She admits that when business is slow, as was the case earlier this year, that having so many staff is a big responsibility.
The work she is proudest of is her 20 square-metre (215 square-feet) mural at Kenya's national museum. She says she is also very proud of the buildings she has done.
Visitors to Kitengela have included Nobel laureat Wangare Maathai and members of the British and Swedish royal families.
One of Croze's sons, Anselm runs the blown glass operations where rainbow-coloured vases and glasses are made.
Born in what is now Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea into a family of artists, Nani went to boarding school in Britain, finishing school in the Swiss city of Lausanne, then back to Britian to study at Exeter University.
Determined to go into science, she worked under the Nobel prize-winning biologist and zoologist Konrad Lorenz.
She married the animal researcher Harvey Croze. The couple had three children and lived in the Serengeti in northern Tanzania for four years in the late sixties. They later came to Kenya and parted after Nani had built Kitengela.
Goethe notwithstanding, after four decades in east Africa, Croze says she misses "absolutely nothing" about Europe. A trip earlier this year to visit two of her children in Scotland reminded her, she says, that in Europe "nobody walks down the street, nobody smiles."
Share This Article With Planet Earth
Africa News - Resources, Health, Food
Arms shipment found in Nigeria loaded in Iran: firm
Lagos (AFP) Oct 29, 2010
An illegal arms shipment including rockets and grenades discovered in Nigeria this week was loaded in Iran by an Iranian trader, the firm that operates the vessel that delivered it said on Friday. Security agents this week intercepted 13 containers declared as building materials and discharged from the CMA CGM Everest vessel at the country's busiest port of Apapa in Nigeria's economic hub of ... read more
Indonesia battles disasters on two fronts|
Stark warning three months into Pakistan flood crisis
Billions in Afghanistan aid dollars unaccounted for: audit
Chilean mining safety still on the agenda
Google giving away Google TV devices to developers
Smaller Is Better In The Viscous Zone
Two NASA Spacecraft Begin New Exploration Assignments
Space Fence Design Moves Into Next Phase
Disappearing Lake Chad harming regional stability: PM
Vulnerable atoll nation plans seawall to block rising seas
Iceland rejects 'unrealistic' EU mackerel quota: negotiator
Britain announces marine 'planning' zones
Whales Help Researchers Take Winter Temperature Of Greenland Coastal Waters
NASA Airborne Science Campaign Begins Antarctic Sequel
UBC Underwater Robot To Explore Ice-Covered Ocean And Antarctic Ice Shelf
Susitna Glacier, Alaska
Inuit to appeal EU seals ruling
Bulgarian parliament allows brown bear hunting
Canadian seal hunters lose bid to lift EU import ban
Master chocolatiers give green cocoa a boost
Indonesia denies failures in tsunami aid effort
Typhoon Chaba churns towards eastern Japan
Scores found alive in Indonesia tsunami zone
Death toll from Thai floods hits 100
Tanzanians vote as ruling party predicts landslide win
Nani Croze - East Africa's answer to Gaudi
Arms shipment found in Nigeria loaded in Iran: firm
Madagascar's illicit wood trade to China
American teen crowned Miss World 2010
How Genes Are Selectively Silenced
Fossils double age of humans in Asia
Study: Human ancestors not 'out of Africa'
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2010 - SpaceDaily. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement|