Cowrie shells at the balcony

Harfa Haq’s home
Harfa Haq’s home with hanging cowrie shells arranged in swinging patterns. PHOTO | JOSIAH MWANGI 

When Harfa Haq is not finger-painting or beautifying hand-woven baskets in her Nyali residence in Mombasa, she is in her “little garden” on her balcony watching dangling cowrie shells arranged in patterns.

She says her balcony is a reflection of her love for art that gives her peace of mind. She has interlaced the cowrie shells on a thread and hang them adjacent to one another to create a curtain-like look.

“It has taken me time to gather these sea shells from beaches. I love cowrie shells because of their beauty,” says Harfa.

Harfa puts the bigger cowrie shells on top of the balcony walls, in a way she says reminisces the beach. Others are placed in garden pots and woven baskets which have potted plants.

To protect the hanging shells from vagaries of weather, she paints them with clear vanish.


Harfa Haq

Harfa Haq’s balcony with hanging cowrie shells arranged in swinging patterns. PHOTO | COURTESY

Harfa confesses that she is collector of shells, a childhood hobby that has helped her transform her garden.

“To date, I still collect cowrie shells during our holiday trips with my husband to Lamu, Watamu, Diani and other places along the coast,” she says. The most concealed beauty in her balcony is the traditionally woven basket with potted plants that creates a green lush in the space. Harfa sources her baskets from Marikiti market and Lamu Island.

“I use woven baskets to give potted plants a fresh beauty. They stand out because they are different from the traditional clay pots used to grow plants,” says Harfa. Harfa paints the baskets. Sometimes she draws pets such as cats and dogs on the baskets. She has also created patterns with beige, red, green and black colours. This beauty has made her family spend most of their time at the balcony.

She shares her passion for potted plants with her mother whose giant plants take over the huge part of her garden. Currently, she is planning to create a bigger effect with the cowrie shells once the family moves to another home.