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Turkana blind carpenter who ‘sees’ with his mind

His clients claim the man is the best in the trade county-wide

Wilson Namuton has been making furniture for 35 years but has little to show for his good work.

His hands move skillfully. At his workplace, Wilson Namuton is always busy; measuring the length of a piece of timber, sawing or smoothening the same, and like all carpenters do, hammering nails into wood.

Looking at the lanky man bending over his work table, it is not hard to tell that he has a special attachment to wood.

The fruits of his labour are praised by all and sundry at Napetet, a small village in Turkana County, and beyond. His hand-made tables, stools and cupboards, according to his clients, are the best in the county.

Interestingly, the man who makes such enviable pieces of furniture plies his trade in total darkness — he is totally blind, and has never seen even a single photon of light in his entire life.

But Namuton, who is hard to distract when at work, stops hammering at a nail when I ask him how he manages to do this without hitting his fingers.

Clearly bemused by the question, he “looks” straight at me with a broad smile and tells me that he can see although he is blind.

“I am blind but I have hands. I have over the years learnt to see using my hands and you do not hit (with a hammer) your own eyes,” he said.

Even as his body continues to weaken, thanks to the vagaries of age and economic hardships, Namuton’s love for wood has been growing stronger by the day.

Immense love

The man, who was born in 1953 and who has been working as a carpenter for 35 years, loves what he does and is not ready to call it a day yet.

But despite his immense love for carpentry Namuton, who went to Thika School in 1974 (Kenya Junior Secondary) and afterwards studied carpentry at Machakos Training Centre, says the job is fraught with challenges.

But the veteran carpenter says his biggest handicap is that he has never managed to establish his own shop due to financial constraints.

Namuton blames his predicament on dishonesty on the part of his workmates who, due to his visual impairment, usually display their furniture more prominently to his disadvantage

“I wish I could get my own space. I could set up a workshop that will enable me work efficiently because borrowing spaces from fellow workshop owners to display my wares has proven to be difficult. My furniture is not given prominence in display and as a blind man, I cannot follow up on that,” complains Namuton.

This means that customers rarely get to see his furniture.

Due to this problem, the carpenter enlisted the help of his wife in selling his furniture, but with little success.

“My wife has been so supportive of my work. After I have crafted my products she moves around with them in a bid to sell them. Although it is not a guarantee that you will sell at the end of the day, you just do not give up,” he said.

Namuton works alone as he cannot afford to employ a helper. Sometimes other carpenters hire him to do temporary work.

But despite the dishonesty that surrounds him, Namuton is an honest man, according to his clients.

“Namuton will never tell you to come and get a product on a certain day and fail to deliver. He is honest, efficient and hardworking,” said a Mr Ekai, who had come to collect a table.

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