The Factory in the Jungle
This photograph was taken in 1940 in Kenya by my friendís father who fled to Africa from Vienna with his wife in 1939 to escape the Nazis. Not only did he capture this timeless image of a craftsman at work, he also bought the manís seat, the dish, the pliers, and some examples of his work hanging from the crossed stick
For 30 years I was a frequent visitor to the house where the photograph and the components of the "factory" were displayed amongst a collection of artefacts gathered from Africa and Northern Australia - unusual baskets, spears, wooden snuff bottles, masks, bark paintings and carvings.
Each time I was seen looking at the photo and the various items on display I was told the story of when and where it was taken and how pleased the craftsman was to have sold all the "bits and pieces, the whole factory, right there and then"
The house was sold after my friend's parents had died and I was fortunate to be given the photograph and the complete workshop
On getting the goods home I discovered that the dusty, rusty things dangling on the crossed stick were actually delicate necklaces made of copper, brass and silver, and hidden by dust in the dish were many small links
Each link is handmade, about 5 mm long with a single turn spiral at one end and a hook at the other Ė like a question mark with a curled tail. With a very awkward and fiddly twisting motion the hook fits through the previous spiral and when twisted back into location the loose ends tuck into a valley. There are no joining clasps, each chain is continuous and no sharp edges can be seen or felt
The necklace lengths vary, and the chain thickness depended on the gauge of the wire used
There is some sample chainwork which includes variations on the link shapes, some different joining methods including neat lashing with very thin brass wire, and some steel wire links. Also a separate small section of aluminium chain
The 3 legged stool has been carved from wood, and is adorned by beaten aluminium designs held in place by aluminium nails with their heads beaten flush. The shapes are edged with a plain chain stitch design of handmade links
The dish on the stick is carved from a wooden disc, the inside surface is worn end grain, the outer has been smoothed and daubed. Several aluminium plate reinforcements have been added to one side, held in place with copper wire stitches. The stick has been turned with decorative grooves and has a steel spike to hold it firmly in the ground. The crossed stick is very basic, but the end pushed into the ground has been wound with wire. It appears the man has made all of this equipment
The pliers are iron, two 9 inch long ( 23 cm. ) stepped strips with a rivet, a blacksmith's job. They have cutting edges. The handles taper to small burred sections which have been used as fine hammers, perhaps to tuck the link ends neatly away
It seems the link pieces were cut from wire and then bent to shape and the chains assembled in front of potential customers
There are also two awls with hardwood twigs as handles, holding what appears to be steel nails shaped to a taper with a file. These are to form the spirals and hook shapes. They may be what is hanging on a chain around the man's neck
Hoping you have enjoyed reading the story behind the photograph
The bark paintings were donated to the National Gallery of Australia. The rest of the collection were given to relatives.