Sights

While the feted Kisii soapstone obviously comes from this area, it’s not on sale here. Quarrying and carving take place in the Gusii village of Tabaka, 23km northwest of Kisii. Soapstone is relatively soft and pliable (as far as rocks go), and with simple hand tools and scraps of sandpaper the sculptors carve chess sets, bowls, animals and the unmistakable abstract figures of embracing couples. Each artisan specialises in one design before passing it on to someone else to be smoothed with wet sandpaper and polished with wax. Most pieces are destined for the curio shops of Nairobi and Mombasa and trade-aid shops around the world. As you would expect, prices are cheaper here than elsewhere. If you're undaunted by adding a few heavy rocks to your backpack, you can save a considerable sum by buying close to the source.