"chess set", "chess sets", "chess pieces", "chess museum", "schaak"

Kenya  (Africa)

Abagusii means people from Mogusii. Mogusii was a leader of the Gusii’s tribe at late 18th century. “Kisii” is the Swahili name that the British colonial administration used as well, and it is still the common name used by other inhabitants of Kenya.
"Kisii" stone is a soapstone (Steatite) that is mined in Tabaka in open pit mine.

Kenya sets of Kisii stone exist in several sizes, colours and themes. In the examples there is a theme with animals, the others are tribal figures. The white with grey one is the most common pattern of these sets, although the grey colour is less common. The red with black set is similar but better carved as average and in unusual colour. White and pink are the most common colours. In the examples you see small variations (mainly King). The very large set is a bit rare.

Known as kisii, Kenyan soapstone is found only in the Tabaka Hills in western Kenya. It is a rather soft kind of soapstone with is easy to work with. The skilled carvers do use primitive tools and after the carving the pieces are rubbed with coconut-fat or coconut-oil, which gives them their beautiful luster. These sets are made by the Abagusii (or Gusii), also called Kisii people for the tourist market. The Gusii are a subgroup of the western Bantu who, many centuries ago, migrated from what is now Uganda. Eventually settling in the Kisii Highlands in Kenya sometime in the 1500s, the Gusii soon started a tradition of soapstone carving.

Although I did had several chess sets, all given to me, I was not considering myself a collector until I bought the animal theme set on the artisanal art market in Avignon in 1996. It was the very first set I bought myself, just because I liked it.

« of 3 »
  • Kenya, by Abagusii (=Kisii people)
  • 1983
  • Kisii stone K 11.3; p 5.2
« of 4 »
  • Kenya, by Abagusii (=Kisii people)
  • 1996
  • Kisii stone K 9.6; p 5.4-6.1
  • Board 38.0×38.0
« of 7 »
  • Kenya, by Abagusii (=Kisii people)
  • 1997
  • Kisii stone K 13.9; p 5.5
  • Board 35.1×34.8
« of 2 »
  • Kenya, by Abagusii (=Kisii people)
  • 1997
  • Kisii stone K 15.5; p 6.5
  • Board 45.0×45.0
« of 5 »
  • Kenya, by Abagusii (=Kisii people)
  • 2000
  • Kisii stone K 13.3, p 6.5
  • Board Ø xx.x
  • Kenya, by Abagusii (=Kisii people)
  • ca. 2000
  • Kisii stone K 7.8-9.7; p 3.3-4.2