I’m very proud to have helped set up a new screen printing facility and designs with Kipepeo cards in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya.
I met Rachel the founder of Kipepeo at an event in the People’s Supermarket which we were both speaking at. Kipepeo was set up as a Christian project which, as an atheist, is something i would usually run a mile from, but i was so taken by Rachels generosity and enthusiasm that i felt it was something really worth working on. They have set up a project in the Kibera slum which has grown to 30 women, they make handmade paper cards from waste paper, Rachel works at this as a full time unpaid volunteer and from her stories I could see she had nothing but the womens’ interest at heart. They are working in very basic conditions without running water and have overcome huge obstacles, including being held hostage at gunpoint but still she stuck at it with a smile, I really respect what she is doing.
However, despite all the good intentions the project was not actually funding itself and was only running because of all the hours Rachel was putting in. The cards themselves are lovingly hand painted or collaged from materials like old cola cans and sweet wrappers. Some of them are very beautiful but as cute as they are, I think its fair to say they resemble more of an school art project than something that might compete on the shelves of stores, they were also very time consuming and so costly to produce. Mainly the cards were bought by church groups who are affiliated to the project or know the backstory rather than the general public looking for an eyecatching card. We discussed this over a coffee and I had the idea of using rubber stamps to cheaply produce colourful designs. I did some tests but the card was too rough to hold the ink. I suggested screen printing but it would require a lot of training and equipment and because the area doesnt even have running water it would be a very tricky undertaking without a hose. Rachel was keen to try anything to make the cards more saleable, so in the end I suggested we send Marcroy, a screenprinter who set up peopleofprint.com. Marcroy had been helping me at the time to organise the NODE Design Museum show. I designed 6 two colour screenprint images as a test batch. With a £1000 donation to Kipepeo, Marcroy was then sent off to Nairobi armed with 12 screens and a squeegee. The results of which you can see see below.
If you would like to order these cards for personal or wholesale please contact Rachel or visit the Kipepeo shop here
Also, the intention with setting up this screen print facility is to be able to produce many other new designs, if you have some saleable designs which you would be willing to volunteer, I am sure they would be gratefully received.