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Been There, Sewn That

If there is anybody who knows the fabric of the safari industry, it’s Joseph Ondeyo as he’s literally sewn it all
Above: Where you'll find Ondeyo most days

My uncle was a tailor. He taught me a lot of what I know today however, my training didn’t start behind a sewing machine, but rather under a car. I went to a technical college where I trained as a mechanic and driver but I quickly found that being a mechanic was not my calling. So I went back and trained as a tailor and a tent maker.
I moved from my home in Nyamira County, near Kisumu, to Narok and started making suits. I made more suits than I could count; now I can barely remember any of them. But there was one suit that I remember so well — a green, three-piece suit that I sold to a gentleman who would later become a big businessman in Narok. Never underestimate the power of a good suit.

Measuring out a butler's bag which Ondeyo designed and makes
This JUKI industrial sewing machine is really what holds the lodge together

Of course, I made many suits for myself and my family are always quick to ask me to make this or that for them which is easy enough to do. I often help repair uniforms at the lodge so I can still do clothing. Although I’m very out of practice with making suits these days, I know a quick refresher course would get me sewing in no time. After all these years and all the different things I’ve sewn, my favourite piece is still the first beautiful coat I made — a double breasted grey cotton-wool coat.

After making so many suits, I decided to shift gears and practice my skills in tentmaking. That’s when I went to Kichwa Tembo in the Maasai Mara. That was my first time working in a safari lodge and I loved being in the Mara; even though it's far away from my home, it’s a beautiful place to live. After eight happy years at Kichwa, I moved on to my next sewing adventure — Governors' Balloon Safaris.

From precise zipper details to massive stretches of fabric he can do it all
... Even the plastic rain flaps on a safari vehicle

At Governors', I was trained as a balloon technician which was so interesting as I had never done anything like it before. I repaired envelopes (the actual balloon) and baskets (which you stand in) as well as banners for over nine years and felt incredibly proud to see my handiwork float effortlessly over the Mara. During my time at Governors', I was able to go up in the balloons many times and loved seeing the beauty of the Mara from above.

In 2015, there were rumours of a new lodge opening up on the escarpment and I was just about ready for a new challenge. So up I went to Angama Mara. In the eight years that I’ve worked at Angama, I’ve sewn everything from vehicle canopies to butlers' bags and repaired it all, too, from tents to uniforms.

Just a few months into 2015 — and Ondeyo's machine has not stopped whirling since
Today, you could say he is sewn into the very fabric of Angama

Despite sewing my fingers by mistake on numerous occasions, sewing has been an incredibly important part of my life. The skills passed down to me by my uncle have brought me across the country and landed me in one of Kenya’s most beautiful places. And still, the adventures are just beginning.  

Filed under: Inside Angama

Tagged with:

Angama Team , Hot-air Balloon , Tented Camp

About: Joseph Ondeyo

As the resident tailor, Joseph Ondeyo has stitched us back together in one way or another. He keeps the cars on the road, the shirts looking smart and the tents in good nick. When he's not behind his sewing machine, he's learning a new language (Spanish), running his multiple clothing businesses, or generally helping out around the lodge in various departments.

Browse all articles by Joseph Ondeyo Meet the angama team

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