Using stone art to give buildings an aesthetic finish is an ancient craft that is experiencing a renaissance in Kenya.
The Greeks, Indians, Chinese and Africans have ancient stone art that dates back centuries. In fact, some of the largest and most enduring works of art in the world involved the use of stones, for example Egyptian tombs and pyramids and the Great Wall of China.
Six years ago, Stone Arts Gallery decided to take a leap of faith and move to Kenya, with the owner starting at a friend’s house before moving to a studio in Kasarani, Nairobi. The company chose the country because the use of stone finishes was underdeveloped.
It turned out to be a smart investment.
The company has showrooms in Parklands and at the Galleria Mall in Nairobi, where it showcases a wide range of products, from flooring to sculptures.
His sculpture “Dancing Man” (pictured), for example, took about four weeks to complete and costs Sh 290,000.
Sanket Tandon, head of marketing and business development at Stone Arts, said finishing stone constructions was spreading rapidly, even outside of Nairobi.
The company has since spread outside Kenya to Rwanda, where it recently managed a construction project called Kigali Heights. It also supplies various kinds of stones, including sandstone, limestone, slate and marble, to India (where the company has been in existence for 18 years), France, Dubai and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Mr. Tandon said that one of the most popular stone finishes today is cladding, which is used on the walls.
“The price of the cladding varies from 2,400 to 7,200 Sh per square meter, depending on the desired finish and the customer’s tastes.
Decorative stone flooring, which is also widely used for its aesthetic appeal and durability compared to normal flooring, cost between 3,000 and 6,000 shillings per square meter.
Other products supplied by the company include columns, door frames, portal pillars, lintels and window sills, chimneys, lighting fixtures and materials for the restoration of dilapidated buildings.
There are also different types of finishes available for stone products. For example, granite products have up to six different finishes, including bush hammered (which has a textured feel) or leather, depending on the customer’s preference.
So where does Stone Arts get its stone from?
Tandon said the company imports a lot of what it uses because it costs less than shopping locally.
“The prices here are very expensive and prohibitive for business,” he said.
He added that the secret to the company’s success lies in referrals from satisfied customers. Stone Arts also works with professionals in the construction industry, including architects, designers and contractors, to boost its business.