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SMOLart is a self-help organization based in the rural village of Tabaka, Kenya, the center of Kenya's soapstone carving region. The soapstone is mined from pits in the area and delivered to the carvers who carve sculptures from the natural stone, the color of which ranges from cream, to pink, to brown, to yellow, to black, to a marbling of all of them. The tools used by the carvers consist of household items from screwdrivers, hand drills, to switchblades. "Pangas," sword-like tools usually used for cutting down vegetation, are used to cleave the stone from the mines. Once carved, the craftsmen smooth rough edges with sandpaper dipped in water and polish the piece to a high gloss or paint it in brilliant colors and etch accents.
SMOLart, a shortened version of Small, Medium, and Large Artists, refers to the size of the soapstone products the artisans make, not their stature. Established in 1990, SMOLart works with about 1000 carvers enabling them to work in their homes, thus creating job opportunities while also allowing the artisans to be closer to their families. The organization assures the artisans are paid a fair price for their work. In addition, SMOLart supports community development by contributing to projects that improve the living conditions, education and health of their members and the village at large.
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