Elkana Ong'esa's Traditional Soapstone Sculptures

Sarah Mitchell

Kenyan artist Elkana Ong’esa creates one-of-a-kind soapstone sculptures that have been exhibited around the world. The UNESCO building in Paris, for example, has displayed Bird of Peace at its entrance since 1976. We find out more.

Elkana Ong’esa, Courtesy African Colours

Most of Ong’esa’s pieces are made out of a type of soapstone called Kisii stone, which is a traditional material found in the Kisii region of southwestern Kenya. According to Ong’esa, although soapstone is found in many other countries around the world, Kenyan soapstone is unique. It can be found in white, pink, grey and even black, and is quite soft in comparison. Soapstone is created when lava cools underwater. Consequently, communities in this region have been using Kisii stone for generations; rock art carvings were the first examples of its malleability as an artistic material.

Dancing Birds, Elkana Ong’esa, Courtesy African Colours

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