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Mulinge is an artisan who works alongside the Soko staff at the Nairobi offices, doing much of the hands-on jewelry making for the prototypes of the Soko ’14 Fall/Winter collection. When we would work side-by-side, he making brass chain and I making photo props, he would patiently teach me Swahili and answer my limitless questions about Kenyan culture and traditions.

I was floored, feeling truly honored when Mulinge invited me to come along with his family on a road trip to Kibwezi, Kenya to photograph and be part of a beautiful Kenyan tradition: the Dowry Ceremony.

Dowry is a foreign idea for those of us who have grown up in the West (like paying only 20 cents for an avocado. Really. I had so much guacamole in Kenya. Happy tummy.); even for many modern, urbanized Kenyans this tradition is becoming more distant. In traditional Kenyan culture, a dowry price is decided by the brides’ family. Previously it was in terms of livestock – cows, goats, etc. Today, especially for the city dwellers without the land to host such grazers, many families are paid in shillings of the market value of the livestock.

And as in Mulinge’s case, dowries can be paid over time. He and his sweet wife Mary have been married already for 10 years and have a son named David (the good looking fellah pictured above who helped me keep an eye out for zebras and giraffes as we drove along the highway and who I also was able to give a few photography lessons to). When the dowry is paid there is a large neighborhood celebration.

And it starts with singing:

And it is loud singing. Diana, Soko’s Social Impact Manager (and resident break-it-down-for-Praise-to-understand specialist), explained to me that for such a ceremony all the women of the village/neighborhood have to sing to greet the groom’s family. And if it isn’t heard from a kilometer away, it isn’t loud enough!

Following the song, there was a huge neighborhood dinner party that was part Meet the Parents, part Family Reunion, part Dance Party. I was asked to join Mulinge, his wife Mary, and their cousins at the head table. And they set a large plate of deliciousness before me. Goat and pilau (rice with Kenyan flavor) – necessities the tongue must experience while in East Africa.

Leaving the high traffic, metropolis of Nairobi to the small, farm town of Kibwezi is a bit allegorical to what the whole ceremony felt like. It was going back to a part of Kenya, to a piece of the country that hasn’t aged. It was quieter. It is something that has been maintained and cared for.

There is much beauty in tradition. Soko founder Ella (a fellow American living in Kenya) and I were talking about the ceremony and it’s much like a bride from our culture asking her father to walk her down the aisle or choosing to wear a white dress. The repetition of an act throughout the decades makes a tradition special and solemn.

As we were dining Mulinge pointed at all his guests, pointed their full plates of food and said, “Praise, it’s because of Soko that I can afford to pay for all this.”

Because of the income through Soko sales of their handiwork, many artisans are not only able to make a living but are now also able to use their wages to meet financial goals beyond their basic needs. It was here in Kibwezi, amidst a field of maize and beans, with the sound of women cooking for a village, and the shriek of joy of friends who are reunited that Mulinge has chosen to use his revenue to honor his family and his upbringing.


Personal update:

I’m now back home in the United States!
My time in Kenya was remarkable. This two-month experience has let me be part of a movement that is combining beauty + impact. I leave inspired and determined to continue to use my business, skills, and passions in ways that will honor God + enrich and empower the lives of others.

I have a TON of photos and video footage to sort through and I can’t wait to share them with you 🙂 If you haven’t filled it out already, please respond to the survey so that I can package your backer rewards.

I will continue to update you all with the Kenyan Artisan stories through Kickstarter as well as through my blog: http://comeplum.com/202244/blog
Also, my instagram is always getting updated: instagram.com/praaaise

Again, I can’t thank you enough for your support!
My semi-jet lagged body is sending you big hugs via the internet 🙂


Mulinge is an artisan who works alongside the Soko staff at the Nairobi offices, doing much of the hands-on jewelry making for the prototypes of the Soko ’14 Fall/Winter collection. When we would work side-by-side, he making brass chain and I making photo props, he would patiently teach me Swahili and answer my limitless questions about Kenyan culture and traditions.

I was floored, feeling truly honored when Mulinge invited me to come along with his family on a road trip to Kibwezi, Kenya to photograph and be part of a beautiful Kenyan tradition: the Dowry Ceremony.

Dowry is a foreign idea for those of us who have grown up in the West (like paying only 20 cents for an avocado. Really. I had so much guacamole in Kenya. Happy tummy.); even for many modern, urbanized Kenyans this tradition is becoming more distant. In traditional Kenyan culture, a dowry price is decided by the brides’ family. Previously it was in terms of livestock – cows, goats, etc. Today, especially for the city dwellers without the land to host such grazers, many families are paid in shillings of the market value of the livestock.

And as in Mulinge’s case, dowries can be paid over time. He and his sweet wife Mary have been married already for 10 years and have a son named David (the good looking fellah pictured above who helped me keep an eye out for zebras and giraffes as we drove along the highway and who I also was able to give a few photography lessons to). When the dowry is paid there is a large neighborhood celebration.

And it starts with singing:

And it is loud singing. Diana, Soko’s Social Impact Manager (and resident break-it-down-for-Praise-to-understand specialist), explained to me that for such a ceremony all the women of the village/neighborhood have to sing to greet the groom’s family. And if it isn’t heard from a kilometer away, it isn’t loud enough!

Following the song, there was a huge neighborhood dinner party that was part Meet the Parents, part Family Reunion, part Dance Party. I was asked to join Mulinge, his wife Mary, and their cousins at the head table. And they set a large plate of deliciousness before me. Goat and pilau (rice with Kenyan flavor) – necessities the tongue must experience while in East Africa.

Leaving the high traffic, metropolis of Nairobi to the small, farm town of Kibwezi is a bit allegorical to what the whole ceremony felt like. It was going back to a part of Kenya, to a piece of the country that hasn’t aged. It was quieter. It is something that has been maintained and cared for.

There is much beauty in tradition. Soko founder Ella (a fellow American living in Kenya) and I were talking about the ceremony and it’s much like a bride from our culture asking her father to walk her down the aisle or choosing to wear a white dress. The repetition of an act throughout the decades makes a tradition special and solemn.

As we were dining Mulinge pointed at all his guests, pointed their full plates of food and said, “Praise, it’s because of Soko that I can afford to pay for all this.”

Because of the income through Soko sales of their handiwork, many artisans are not only able to make a living but are now also able to use their wages to meet financial goals beyond their basic needs. It was here in Kibwezi, amidst a field of maize and beans, with the sound of women cooking for a village, and the shriek of joy of friends who are reunited that Mulinge has chosen to use his revenue to honor his family and his upbringing.


Personal update:

I’m now back home in the United States!
My time in Kenya was remarkable. This two-month experience has let me be part of a movement that is combining beauty + impact. I leave inspired and determined to continue to use my business, skills, and passions in ways that will honor God + enrich and empower the lives of others.

I have a TON of photos and video footage to sort through and I can’t wait to share them with you 🙂 If you haven’t filled it out already, please respond to the survey so that I can package your backer rewards.

I will continue to update you all with the Kenyan Artisan stories through Kickstarter as well as through my blog: http://comeplum.com/202244/blog
Also, my instagram is always getting updated: instagram.com/praaaise

Again, I can’t thank you enough for your support!
My semi-jet lagged body is sending you big hugs via the internet 🙂

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