BY Lisa Lindblad
March 24, 2010
She might have had a farm in Africa that nurtured her and then failed her; I have a friend in Africa who nurtures and never fails me. Sandy Price arrived in Kenya within months of my own arrival in 1971 and, in spite of a few months of flight – back to Ohio where she was born and where her beloved Mama lived and back to New York where she had multiple career opportunities on offer in her twin passions, conservation and fashion/design – she has never wavered. Kenya is her web. The beautiful strands of her life are composed of diverse and caring friends of all nationalities. The hue of those strands are richly colored by the intense love she gives to each of them, The resilience of those strands springs from a well of her generosity that is without end. The creature that spins this lovely web, who stands at its epicenter, is a woman of passion, humility, curiosity, courage, talent, and caring love. Sandy still juggles her twin passions for conservation and handmade design. She started the Wildlife Clubs of Kenya and worked for years to educate young Kenyan children and to give them access to the richness of their own land, She is politically savvy and she is tough. Simultaneously, Sandy has always needed to immerse herself in the riches of the artisan world of Kenya and, indeed, of all Africa. Textiles, woodwork, painting, beads, copper – she has taken every humble artisan and every magical skill and with an input of design and money and guidance she has a loose atelier of artisans who make gorgeous painted trays for her, beaded canisters and iris flowers, carved wooden lintels, spoons — so much that I have watched her move from house to house in Nairobi in order to eke out a little extra space to use as a store for these “beauties” as she calls them. For years she had a wonderful shop in town called The Urban Leopard where she displayed (and hated selling) these beauties; many a hotelier has come calling to purchase the paintings, the feathers, the stone and copper seats, the framed textiles.
Sandy is my entree into that world of stuff that I love so much..I prefer to travel with her to the markets and even to the shacks at the roundabout where, stepping over mud and water we go to greet the artisans themselves and, more importantly, the traders. I love the traders because they speak to me of travel. I can see the dust and mud on their shoes, the tiredness in their eyes, the ache in their back and I know that all of this hardship carried out of the darkest parts of Africa a swaddled gem of such beauty – an ivory headrest from Darfur with circle dot design, a jug from Congo fashioned like a Picasso face – humble, utilitarian objects that, in the face of war, become survivors and, in Sandy’s hands, a lifeline back to a family left waiting.
I love sitting with Sandy and reminiscing – there is much to reminisce about but it is never regretful. I love her friends and the way her friends love her. I love her owl in the garden. I love her relationship with Fanice who keeps house, tidying up those skeins of beads and meters of kuba cloth, cooking like a whizz. I love that, when they each have some extra money, they go off to the bank together – newbies to the banking world — and make their deposits in to their own accounts. This is huge.
The unusual life here in Kenya has always attracted women of great fortitude. Today is no different and Sandy Price is one of the great ladies in this current circle of friendship but also across the sweep of time.