Mikono: The Work of Many Hands

Mikono Refugee Craft Shop in Nairobi, Kenya was established as part of a programme by the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) to help refugees to earn money by making and selling traditional crafts. The word ‘mikono’ means ‘hands’ in Swahili, because the work of many hands goes into producing the wares. It has 75 suppliers – of more than 10 different nationalities – who are from a refugee background and now live in or around Nairobi.

High Quality Crafts Items

The shop has a select range of high-quality craft items, which are hand made using traditional methods. Its homewares collection includes table mats, woven baskets and hand carved wooden serving spoons. It sells some women’s clothing and accessories such as bangles, earrings and handbags. There is also a small selection of children’s toys.

The shop’s Patchwork Collection was born when Triphose, a refugee in Kenya who tailored for a living couldn’t afford to buy raw materials. Walking through the streets of Kibera, she noticed all the scraps being tossed away by other shops. She started to collect the scraps, until she had gathered enough to make a quilt.

Since then, Triphose has supplied Mikono shop with beautiful patchwork items including aprons, quilts, cushion covers and clothing. Her resilience in the face of adversity is a good example of how the artisans who supply the shop use not only their crafting skills but also their determination to forge a living to survive in their adopted homeland.