Soil Sample Kenya - CODAworx

Soil Sample Kenya

Submitted by The Lessick Empire

Client: Kounkuey Design Initiaitive

Location: Nairobi, Kenya

Completion date: 2012

Artwork budget: $10,000

Project Team


Chelina Odbert

Kounkuey Design Initiaitive

Community Relations

David Koch

United Nations Environmental Program

Community Liaison

Wilson Sagewa

Kounkuey Design Initiaitive

Urban Planner

Julius Muiru

Kounkuey Design Initiaitive

Soil Research Director

Keith Shepherd



Peter Simba Misiani

idenpendent sign painter


Artist-initiated public art research, design and fabrication project exploring the relationship between soil health and community health. On a travel grant to subSaharan Africa to explore the impacted of depleted soils, Helen created partnerships with Kounkuey Design Initiative, the international urban planning non-profit, ICRAF (World Agroforestry Institute) an NGO and informally with the United Nations Environmental Program. Helen found an opportunity to reify her research and add to a community improvement effort led by KDI in Kibera, the unplanned community in central Nairobi. Helen met with community liaisons, and local leaders to propose and fund public art for a planned construction project. Her designs were implemented by community artisans, working in her Nairobi studio. The art was installed on the new produce vendor kiosks. Funded through Art Matters, Inc. and with in-kind support from local non-profits, community groups and the kindness of Kiberans.


A primary goal was to engage the community in care of their produce and by inference their land, through the work and thinking of artists and planners. A secondary goal was to build connection between underresoruced artisans and the greater creative community through recognition and employment.


The community of 150,000 was managed by a series of overlapping precincts. I worked with the leadership in the district through introductions provided by KDI. I interviewed artisans and steelworkers to create the project, and with the urban planners to develop a site. The plaques are captioned in English (the official language) and Swahili (the national language), on request of the community.

Additional Information

This first public art created with and by the Kibera community, the project created an exchange of skills between the self-taught sign painters and the university trained artist. The two artisans hired for the project admired the techniques of painted perspective and commercial advertising; one began to feature it in his work, which led to new commissions beyond Kibera.