Sisal has been an important export of Kenya for nearly 100 years. At it's peak in the 1960's there were 54 sisal estates in Kenya; today only 7 remain. Kilifi Plantation Limited is the smallest of these (currently 20 square km) and yet it is still a major employer in the area with a large number of families living and working on the farm like their parents and grandparents before them. It's located in Kilifi, on the coast of Kenya, 1 hour north of Mombasa by road.
While there exist photographic records of sisal farming dating back 50 years or more, here we are presented with the highlights of a comprehensive and important photographic archive of a working sisal farm as it is today. The photographs depict not only the procedures involved with processing the sisal from spear to bale, but also capture the mood and atmosphere of the farm and the people working there. What is revealed is not a depressed, post colonial industry, but a large, hard working yet empowered working community.
The photographs of the dust, heat, discarded shoes and those very dark spaces which entice you to look deeply within them, are strong symbols of a struggling industry and an uncertain future. However, these images are matched with those capturing the considerable beauty and life all around the workplace as seen in the series of portraits and textures and patterns of the sisal in all it's forms. It is these photographs which take you to the present; that moment in time in which the day to day working schedule is busy and vibrant.
The story of sisal is as much a human story, about a way of life, as a record of farming practices.
A contemporary photographic story of Kilifi Sisal Plantation, on the coast of Kenya