We are a multi-national team whose core Kenyan members have worked with Ironwood Africa for more than two decades. Made up of different tribes from Kenya, Tanzania and around the world, we are a proudly Kenyan company. Over the years we have collected amazing artisans who have incredible ability and experience in the traditional style of timber and stone construction, a strong administration team, and open minded visual leaders on site.
It has been a fantastic opportunity to work with them all through the extraordinary increase in design expectation over the last 10 years. To see how these men and women boldly translate those ideas and drawings into perfect portals, vaults, archways, and the spectacular wilderness homes that are now famous world-wide is an incredible feeling.
I am always impressed at the level of skill in East Africa and often wonder at the vision people have who, considering mostly humble beginnings and no classical training or references, so confidently apply their skill. It is such an honour to be a part of it. Typically when I say to my team, "I have an idea, what do you think?" the answer is invariably "Why not?". You don't hear that often, but you do here - which is a tremendous testament to their culture of optimism and determination.
Kenya has a magic that inspires, excites, frustrates and holds us here, in equal measures of perfect imperfection. There is a pace in which things happen and there is time for work, humour and love, an inherent character of Kenyan life that cannot be ignored.
Our ethos therefore is this: We will strive to make whatever we do interesting and thought provoking, be creative in how materials are used, fulfil our projects to the best possible standard, work the hours it takes to make the deadlines, inspire, lead and deliver.
What we ask for in return is enjoy the journey, believe in the process, as seldom anything is perfect the first time round, and know we will give you something amazing!
The team back in the office, is under the amazing care of three incredible women: Winnie who runs our finance department and is also involved in the health and care of our staff; Taryn, our General Manager, is the glue for the logistics, operations and office teams; Mercy, our executive support assistant, is the key support between the construction teams and the office. Paul, Brian, Ambrose, Kinyua, and James all play their critical parts from book keeping, logistics, the handling of materials and teams, to making sure delivery is on time. James runs the workshop and the huge amount of sampling, fabrication and support to the sites that keeps work going. Benson observes and trains fabrication teams at the workshop for on site installation, and Josh, Amos, Charles, Harry and Kelvin are the site leaders who pay so much attention, give so much time and energy on site working with sometimes hundreds of workers to translate the designs, and guide the teams in the remote and complicated locations of the East African bush.
There are many more people outside of this main group, the carpenters, the welders, painters, stone masons, cutters and finishers at the workshop. The collaborators in Nairobi who help design and develop ideas, the sub-contractors who carry the technical aspects of projects that over the years have been selected out of many ill-equipped operators, unprepared for the African bush. Suppliers, engineers, quantity surveyors and legal advisors. And last but not least, Mama Phyllis, who sends food and relief packs out to the many crews in the middle of nowhere.
This is the team, and years of experience together has forged trust and the mantra that anything is possible.
The company name was taken from a tree in the forest of Mahale Mountains in western Tanzania: 'Kafunampasa' which, in KiTongwe, means "to break your axe". This magnificent tree often stands tall above the surrounding forest, brilliant and straight with the most incredible canopy. I loved the tree, the translation and what it stood for; Kafunapasa became the backbone of our ethos.
The name, though beautiful, never really inspired the way we thought it would when we set the company up in Kenya. People would often say: "Ati, what?" It sounded too much like "hakuna pesa", which means "no money" - that was never far from the truth back in the humble beginning.
As the company grew and our work broadened, we decided to evolve the name to something that was more representational and IronwoodAfrica was born. Since our very beginnings, we have always finished what we set out to achieve, learning through intense challenges and expectations, dealing with the road and finding amazing alliances, friendships, and skills along the way. To this day, Kafunapasa inspires us to maintain that strength, pride in our work and believing that if something can be imagined, it can be done.
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