If it wouldn’t make me sound ridiculously shallow, I could refer to this as the “Eat. Shop. Love.” trip. But I like to think I am deeper than that. Which does not change the fact that I have seriously enjoyed the shopping.
I have never been so excited to purchase textiles. I am taking home more kangas than I know what to do with. They are the perfect accessory: shirt, shawl, wrap, baby-carrier. Not to mention tablecloth, cushion cover, etc. I am throwing out clothes to take home kangas.
And then of course, there is the fundi. Fundi might be my favourite Swahili word. When it was first taught to me, it was defined as “someone who does something,” which I thought was an awesome definition. I have since discovered it is more accurately translated as craftsman or skilled worker. In this case: the tailor.
Much of the clothes worn by staff here are hand made, not store bought. And beautiful. The fabrics and patterns here are unmatched anywhere I have yet traveled. With help from the mamas, most of the female volunteers here this summer have had an out fit or two (um… or five!) made by local tailors.
First, Maristella, the headmistress, to me to her fundi, in Dar es Salaam. Here I had one a dress and two blouse/skirt sets made. The dress was a simple black flowered pattern, in a tank style that is entirely functional and western looking. Only I know where it came from. The sets are significantly more Tanzanian in flavour. The styles are similar to Maristella’s clothes: practical, comfortable, and very smart looking. I like them.
Next, Josephine wanted to take me to her fundi, to try something new. She has a very different sense of style, going for brighter colours and tighter fits. Generally more striking. Also very fun.
I should also mention the prices. Each piece of fabric costs between 4,000 and 7,000 shillings, or three to six dollars. It is an additional 10,000 to 15,000 shilling for the tailoring. The dresses I picked up today cost me approximately $15, tailored to fit.
So suddenly here I am, a white Canadian girl with not one but FIVE Tanzanian outfits – two of which are rather decidedly African looking. I tried to be practical with syles and patterns so I can wear them at home, and I am confident I can: just perhaps not as sets. I anticipate getting lots of wear from the skirts, and perhaps less from the blouses. Still, well worth the money, and the experience.
* I did say five outfits, didn’t I? You’ll have to wait till I am home for the other two. (a) they have been worn and are too wrinkled for decent photos, and (b) I quickly became bored with the photo shoot. Modelling is not my cup of tea.