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Never expect magic from nowhere

March 5, 2010

Jua Kali workers Nairobi

I am pretty fond of people making things, and I am interested in human resourcefulness and ingenuity, and (as you might have suspected, though I try and restrain myself) I’m stoked on anything Africa – so it really made my day when I found a most wonderful site dedicated to showcasing African ingenuity, and how it solves everyday problems.

A lot of what they write about is work from the so called Jua Kali industry. Jua kali literally means hot sun in Swahili, and refers to the informal small traders who – because they can’t afford a workshop – work outdoors in the sun fabricating and repairing metal and wood items, machinery and household products. Unable to pay for new tools they fabricate their own out of locally available materials; below are two arc-welding machines (and God help James if it rains! as the caption says – to save money James, owner/maker of the top one, didn’t prioritise casing).

Cat walk ready arc welder

Ahhh. Love it! It’s something with the creativity needed when working within limited means and resources that really kicks my boxes. Here’s a tool for making candles, comprising a string, a piece of conduit pipe and two beer caps….yeah!

And Mubarak Muhammad Abdullahi of the Kano Plains of Nigeria, who in 2007 spent 8 months building a working helicopter using scrap aluminum and parts from a Honda Civic, an old Toyota and some remains of a crashed Boeing 747(!!!!). He has had no formal training in flying and his helicopter has never flown higher than 7 feet of the ground. But he is obviously ambitious and now he has embarked on a new project to build a better helicopter that will be able to make 3 hour flights.

(Keen to go with him?)

And finally a beautiful instruction video in case you’ve ever wondered how to use a condom to create one of those homemade African string-footballs you see kids play with.

(All photos by Afrigadget, except this one by Michiel van Balen)

(I should admit I stole the header for this post from a bee keeping cooperative in Bogoria, Kenya; it’s their motto for hard work as posted in the staff room (?) – “Never expect magic from nowhere”.)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Emily permalink
    March 8, 2010 3:19 pm

    Never expect magic from nowhere.
    Anna, your blog is really putting a rocket under me to get good creative plans happening and follow my dreams! Matt and I went out for dinner alone for the first time in ages last night (thanks nan and pa!) and had a great talk about what we want to do in the next few years of our lives. I’m really keen to start or get involved with a grassroots project (I’m also dreaming Africa, but doesn’t have to be) that we can commit to helping out in the long term. Like those guys who started the bamboo bike project. That’s SO inspiring. Although I think my heart is really in starting up an educational project – though I don’t know where or how.
    It’s good to hear from you and your blog is just great. Big ups.

  2. March 8, 2010 6:55 pm

    Thanks Em, so good to hear from you and so stoked that you like it – and dream similar to me. Let’s keep up the good dialogue!

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