Former vegetable hawker now makes coffins, and is good at it

By Julius Chepkwony | Monday, Sep 10th 2018 at 00:00
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Loyce Atieno alias Mama Geneza painting a coffin at a workshop in Nakuru town. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Making a resting place for the dead is not a trade many would want to engage in, especially women.

However, Loyce Atieno alias Mama Jeneza decide to plunge into the uncharted waters and is making headway.

The mother of four is a coffin maker and likes what she does.

While most people fear associating with the dead and the rituals involved, Atieno has made it her responsibility to ensure the dead get a decent send-off.

Atieno abandoned her vegetable hawking job and started off by painting coffins in 2012.

She says she realised she was good at painting and could do it even better than the men.

“I would do some furniture painting and realised my painting was good even compared to what men did. I chose to go the painting way and leave hawking,” said Atieno.

Loyce Atieno alias 'Mama Mageneza' making a Coffin at coffin workshop near Nakuru county Mortuary in Nakuru town on September 5,2018. [Kipsang Joseph/Standard]

The Class eight leaver said through experience, she had made it as she never got any formal underwent carpentry training.

“I left home one morning in 2012 and did not inform my children and husband about my change of plans,” she said.

In the evening, she informed her husband that she was doing painting coffins.

“He was shocked and asked if I would not have nightmares,” she said.

He asked whether she would go back to her new job the next morning.

She has now graduated from painting and is now making coffins.

Final touches

She does all the work, including putting the finishing touches to coffins.

People, she said, were shocked at first but later got used to seeing her work.

While at work, Atieno is in always jovial and her job has earned her the name ‘Mama Jeneza’

“I love doing this work and wouldn't leave it for any other,” she said.

She abandoned her vegetable hawking job and joined the coffin making industry in 2012 and started by painting coffins. [Kipsang Joseph/Standard]

Most of the time, she is alone with coffin buyers. Passers-by who have never seen a woman make coffins stare at her. Those who know her call her by her nickname ‘Mama Jeneza’, a name she responds to with a smile.

Her boss rarely visits her workstation to see her progress, but they communicate on the phone. She runs the business as if she owns it.

In a day, she says her take-home is at least Sh1,500.

Her family, she says, is comfortable with her work and at times visit at the workshop. She says her children even help her during school holidays.

She said that although many people have told her they consider her job to be difficult, she insist that it is like any other.

The biggest hurdle, she said were what she described as malicious allegations that she prayed for people to die. 'Mama Jeneza' said she ensures that the dead get a proper resting place.


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