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Sunday, 20 December 2015

Kangolo’s bags, furniture and trinkets are tops

By Andrew Mulenga

When jeweller Spider Kangolo was retrenched from the gem company that employed him for several years he was devastated and thought it was the end of the world. But a close friend advised him to capitalise on his creativity and the skills he had acquired.

An assortment of baskets that sell for
anything between K25 (approx. US$3) and K45
However, instead of continuing as a jeweller, seeing he did not have the capital to set up that sort of business, he took to collecting discarded bottle tops, creating them into all sorts of things from earrings to furniture and 15 years down the line he has perfected this skill and has emerged into what is almost a one man manufacturing industry.

“I started in 1998 here in Lusaka this is after I came here from the Copperbelt. I was inspired by Quentin Allen who I used to work with on the Copperbelt when I was a jeweller. But for what I’m doing now first I started with making waste paper bins then I started making anything, hats, and chairs lamp shades”, says Kangolo who has just been on the phone with a client from Livingstone, a backpacker’s lodge that ordered 10 lounge chairs.

He explains that although he does not have any staff working for him, he has an apprentice that helps him puncture the bottle tops that are collected every Monday for small fee from a number of bars and restaurants with which he has an agreement

The bar stools are among
the most popular of his products
“All I use is soft wire, just different sizes depending on what I am making whether earrings or fruit bowls and so on. The designs are also my own, I sketch them first and take these to a welder who does my frames when I’m doing furniture like bar stools which are the most popular”, he says.

He explains that he sells the bar stools for K200 but some of his clients that get them on wholesale are known to sell them for about double the price but this does not bother him.
“Business like any other has its ups and downs but yes otherwise I’m used I am managing. In the crafts market September and October is quite bad, but by the end of this month and up to December it is good because people start buying gifts for Christmas and the end of year,” he explains.

“But I also want to expand into something big because I don’t think I can manage the orders alone if you look at what happened recently someone just approached me to do 40 chairs and I spend about 4 hours on one bar stool and every bar stool takes about 220 bottle tops, so it is a lot of work and sometimes I work around the clock,” says Kangolo.

Kangolo has not invented the use of bottle tops for use in crafts at all but he has taken it to another level making very high quality products and raising standards. Although this kind of craft is common in South Africa and Zimbabwe, he appears to be the only one doing it consistently and so skilfully in Zambia which is why he is getting commissions from as far as Livingstone. One can only hope he manages to expand his workshop and further train his apprentices so that his company can grow and he can probably employ more youths helping to contribute towards job creation and poverty reduction.

His earrings, pen holders, bar stools and basket handbags can all be purchased from selected craft outlets such as Ababa House on Addis Ababa Road, the Art Academy without Walls in the Lusaka showgrounds from where he sometimes operates or the Sunday market at Arcades, and since it is that time of the year, why not visit one of these places and surprise a friend, or loved one with something unusually Zambian. 

Kangolo - December is usually good
because people start buying gifts for Christmas

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