[Image credit: Driftwood Mahogany Console – Mijikenda Workshop]
The irregular form of a solid wood dining room table with a split seam running deep into the wood and held together with steel pins is just one of the characteristics pieces from Mijikenda Workshop, whose furniture and decor accessories give a new lease of life to the natural beauty of centuries-old wood salvaged from the beaches, oceans and old railways around East Africa. Based in Diani Beach, Kenya the Mijikenda Workshop was opened in 2008 by Nicole Engelfield a local resident who spent many years working in the tourism industry before turning her creativity and focus towards woodwork. Nicole works with the highly skilled woodcarvers and artisans of Mijikenda, Kenya’s coastal region that stretches from the Somalian border in the north to the Southern Tanzanian border.
The name Mijikenda means ‘The Nine Cities’ and represents the nine indigenous groups found along this coastal region, whose artisans are renowned for their skill and craftsmanship in wood carving. Driftwood, naturally felled trees, rare and antique timbers like East African Rosewood, Burmese Teak, and African Mahogany are just some of the wood types whose organic shapes give a highly distinctive appearance to finished products such as stools; coffee, bar, conference and dining tables that are certain to become conversation pieces wherever they are placed. Weathered from the elements and general use over the years the wood is naturally scarred with cracks and holes; and evidence that some of the wood used has spent time floating in the ocean can be seen in the distinctive marks visible on the surfaces of the finished piece that were left by wood-boring Teredo Worms, also known as Ship worms. The wood used is laden with history, from the source, the original usage through to the local carving heritage. Some of the woods were imported into East Africa in the 1800s used in the building of the East Africa Railway. The Shijiji Bench was made from a 500-year-old Mango Tree that had been struck by lightning and features intricate hand-carved detailing that was inspired by the Doors of Zanzibar, elaborate examples of which can be seen in Stone Town. The tradition of carving doors dates back to 1500 AD in Kilwa and Mombasa, flourishing in 1870-1880.
[Image credit: top, Lunatic Express Table;
bottom, Maneaters Table Details – Mijikenda Workshop]
Illustrating the solidness and size of the woods found, the ‘Mijikenda Stools were crafted from a single 25ft Mahogany tree that was floating in the ocean; and a piece entitled the ‘Mahogany Console’ was made from a piece of driftwood weighing over 2000kgs, which took 35 men two days to recover it from the beach, and a further six months for the artisans to turn it into a finished piece; also highlighting just how involved the process of preparing and hand sawing the wood is. The size of some of the beams means a requirement for stability and support in everyday use, to aid this the beams are reinforced with wooden braces and other forms of support, and some of the tables are supported with stainless steel legs which gives them a contemporary look.
[Image credit: Mahogany Stools – Mijikenda Workshop]
Mijikenda Workshop product ranges also includes antique mirrors, decorated boxes, wine bottle stands and picture frames, offering a framing and picture mounting service to local customers; and those in need of wood for bespoke commercial or residential interior projects are invited to the Workshop choose from a range of rare reclaimed timbers and see for themselves the beauty in what has been discarded.
…interior style statements by nature
To find out more on the Carved doors read:
Mwalim A. Mwalim. Doors of Zanzibar.Additional details:
For further information about Mijikenda Workshop and to order visit: www.mijikenda.com