Oldest tailor as sharp as a needle that he threads without glasses

Lazarus Mukhwana. He trained at Kaimosi Carpentry and Tailoring school from 1953 to 1955. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

At 87, Lazarus Mukhwana is the oldest and longest-serving tailor in Kakamega town.

He boasts that he has good eyesight and unlike his agemates, he does not need spectacles.

Effortlessly, he demonstrates this by threading a small needle in one attempt without squinting.

He then looks at us, grins wolfishly as if daring any of us to try doing that.

He is stooped with age and frail, but Mukhwana's only regret is that his legs are getting weak and he no longer has the strength to treadle his sewing machine for long periods of time.

Even then, he says, he is not giving up yet.

"I trained at Kaimosi Carpentry and Tailoring school from 1953 to 1955," Mukhwana says.

After the tailoring course, he moved to Kampala, Uganda in 1956 and worked there for six years before moving to Mbale town also in Uganda.

When the country once known as the 'Pearl of Africa' was plunged into political turmoil, Mukhwana came back to Kenya.

"I was invited to Kampala by one Ellam Masambaga who had a shop there and needed trained tailors. He had six other workers by then," he says.

"Masambaga was famous in Kampala and we used to get a lot of orders, especially for the traditional flowing dresses locally known as 'komesi'. Even today, the komesi are still popular among the Baganda.''

Rented shop

Mukhwana and Masambaga left Uganda hurriedly in 1976 after a tip-off that the border between Kenya and Uganda was going to be closed due to political tension.

Francis Chipondo, 74, is the second oldest in Kakamega having started the business in 1977. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Mukhwana says he is happy that he has made something out of his business.

"I was able to educate my children and even bought a piece of land at Ikonyero from this tailoring business besides having put up a house at home," he says.

"My last son, Aggrey Watsula, was the first MCA for Shieywe ward in Kakamega County."

Joseph Kefa, the pastor of the local church speaks highly of Mukhwana.

"Mukhwana is a staunch Christian and member of the Nabongo Friends Church in Kakamega town," says the pastor.

"He is such a loyal member, the only time he misses church is when he is either indisposed or away on other business."

As a parting shot, Mukhwana says youth should not put all their energies on getting white-collar jobs after school.

"The youth should try self-employment. Some of these jobs may look unattractive, but they pay once you establish a loyal clientele and make a name through hard work and honesty."

The Standard
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