At African Banana Bark Art, Elisha, Founder, and his young artisans are keeping their eyes to serve and their hands to learn. Everyday they meet to create products such as picture frames, wall hangings, Christmas nativity cards, greeting cards with animals and people, art designs on cloth and canvas and gift card tags. All products are made uniquely using banana bark. They are even expanding their business to learn to carve wooden utensils.
Elisha’s long term business goal is to “reduce unemployment by empowering most youth in the community.” He hires youth because it gives them a job that is not involved in crime, drug or prostitution activities.
Maintaining the equipment supply of materials used with banana bark sometimes runs out very quickly so another business goal is to see more sales and business expansion happen in order to meet this need.
The History of African Banana Bark Art...
Elisha was born into a large family, the second of twelve children. When he was only twelve, he lost his father. Despite great financial need, Elisha was able to receive scholarships and finish high school, and his family was able to survive through small business efforts. Knowing their great need, Elisha went to Nairobi in hopes of making a better life for his family.
Elisha had always been interested in the arts. He stumbled across an old man on the streets of Nairobi making banana bark art and was drawn to the craft. Within weeks, he was living with and working under the man, making a small living for himself. After 6 months the old and now drunken man kicked Elisha out of his house and would no longer teach him the art. Though Elisha found himself in a tough situation, he was thankful to God for this opportunity that provided him with a new ability. Elisha began his own business making banana bark animal cards and found a small market for his product, but he knew it wasn’t enough and had to find a better market.
Elisha didn’t want to give up on his future in the arts and looked for new opportunities to sell his cards. In 1998, Elisha met Don Rogers from Empowering Lives International, who was purchasing Elisha's cards at a shop he sold to. This started a relationship that led him to KipKaren with ELI to train others in banana bark art, where he met Kathy and Christina.
Life was good for his family until a series of circumstances led Elisha to lose contact with Heavenly Treasures. A year later in 2004, Elisha randomly met Kathy & Christina in the markets of Nairobi. Since then, Heavenly Treasures has been the backbone of Elisha’s business, giving him the ability to support his family. He is humbled by the fact God has given him the opportunity to work with Heavenly Treasures. In the future he hopes to be able to train and pass on his talents to others in need in order for them to see the love of God in their lives.
After almost 10 years of working with Elisha, Heavenly Treasures has
seen Elisha's life change and grow. He is able to sell his products at
local markets as well as to HT!
The card making process...
1. The outside fiber of the banana bark is striped and the interior is used for the design. So much of the bark is actually gone to waste. It is quite a process to strip the bark.
2. A template is used to cut the banana bark into an animal shape.
3. The details are hand drawn on
4. Using hand made glue, the animals are prepared to be put on to the card. Bumps are air bubbles are smoothed out.