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Bamboo King - Portland father carves livelihood from tall, tree-like, woody grass

Published:Thursday | December 17, 2015 | 12:00 AMGareth Davis
Wilburne King, carver extraordinaire.


HIS LOVE for bamboo came about by chance, but for Wilburne King, his newly found livelihood is a part of his everyday life, which has allowed him to invest and grow in the local tourism sector.

King, who spent the better part of 20 years writing poetry, which was his first love, was amazed to discover that the locally grown bamboo could be used for just about anything, including household furniture, utensils, picture frames, and for building construction.

"Three years ago, I fell in love with bamboo. It happened while travelling to and fro, and I came in contact with a number of items made from bamboo and I was shocked. I had no idea that bamboo had such use. I was captivated and immediately I decided that the tall grass (bamboo) was going to be a part of my life and work. Since then, I have taken up a full-time occupation in organic bamboo construction," King told The Gleaner.

The bamboo lover, who also goes by the alias 'Bamboo King', now occupies a shop at the newly rehabilitated craft village along Allan Avenue in Port Antonio, where he skilfully carves away with knife and chisel to design and construct cupboards, picture frames, smoking pipes, ashtrays, cups, fruit trays, bracelets, chairs, and tables, which are polished and varnished.

King, who spends just about all his time carving away at the cured bamboo, has vowed to stick to that kind of material as not only is it non-toxic, but also that once cured properly, the material will not come under attack from termites, which are dangerous wood-eating pests.

"I am also motivated by the fact that my son is in high school and, therefore, I have to spend more time on my livelihood, which allows me to keep him in school and to provide daily meals for us, and to also pay the bills."