Simpsons movie helps Kenyans carve out a living

MargeI’m always seeing products from Asia in North American stores, but none from Africa, aside from the occasional food item from South Africa. So I was happy to read that a group of carvers in Kenya are producing soapstone carvings of The Simpsons and that Twentieth Century Fox designated the carvings as official merchandise.

The Tabaka Classic Carvers are licensed to produce 12 models of the show’s characters, and they are keen to expand their portfolio. Pauline Kemunto and her husband work with the Simpsons team in Tabaka; he carves the figures and she smoothes the soapstone afterwards "I don’t know who they are," she says about the dysfunctional cartoon family. "But I like them because I earn from them." [Link]

She could probably say the same thing about the people buying the carvings. They live in countries like the U.S., Britain and Italy, and probably have no idea how much effort goes into each carving and how much more money they’re able to make, even just flipping burgers at McDonald’s.

The famous figurines are about to go on sale in the UK at the Craft Village UK, priced at about $40. Mr Young says 30% of this goes to Kenya, not just to the carvers but to pay for the print work, quality control and packaging. [Link]

That means that for each carving, which takes about two days to complete, less than $12 goes into the pocket of the carver. On western standards, that doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but it puts food on the table for carvers like Enosh Onsombi and his eight children. And it also gives them pride, for they’re supporting themselves and practicing their craft, even if it means spending an entire afternoon on Marge’s hair.

Enosh: "This woman, look at her hair. It’s taller than Mount Kilimanjaro."

Mayaka: "It looks like her hair is braided. Is she African?"

Enosh: "No, I don’t think so. African women don’t have such big eyes!"

Mayaka: "Oh, you should have seen my wife’s eyes when I gave her a gold necklace. She asked me where I got the money. I said I’ve been carving The Simpsons. She said, ‘Who are they?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, but the boss told me they’re a good family, no relation to that scoundrel O.J."

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.


  1. The famous figurines are about to go on sale in the UK at the Craft Village UK, priced at about $40.
    Just $40? Considering how much some cheap, plastic trinkets cost, this should have been priced higher.

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