Market brings out the African in Kenya

Tuesday March 26 2013

PHOTO | GIDEON MAUNDU Hawkers display their wares on tables outside the City Mall in Nyali during the opening of the Masai Market in Mombasa.

PHOTO | GIDEON MAUNDU Hawkers display their wares on tables outside the City Mall in Nyali during the opening of the Masai Market in Mombasa. NATION MEDIA GROUP

By SYLVANIA AMBANI  [email protected]

Maasai Market is one of its kind in Mombasa and is well known for the colour that radiates from the wares on display.

The market, which will now be known as the African Crafts Market, is one of the hallmarks of the Jua Kali Association which came up with the idea to both preserve culture and find an outlet for local artists.

Opening twice a week at Nakumat City Mall, the market brings together men and women with diverse talents to showcase their products. The dealers make the items, which range from home decor to fashion for both men and women, themselves.

The market has its headquarters in Nairobi but plans to go around East Africa selling its products.

According to the regional coordinator and exhibition officer, Ms Jane Munyau, the initiative was mooted to boost local talent. It stocks baskets, women’s accessories, traditional attire, paintings and sculptured soapstone, pots made of clay, stools made of wood, metal works, and beads among other handicrafts.

“The market accommodates anyone with talent for making something. Artists come up with the products themselves and we help them to sell their items locally and internationally at trade exhibitions,” she said.

Apart from being the coordinator, Ms Munyau is an artist who makes baskets from waste polythene and ruffia material.

The baskets are then decorated with beads or scarfs. She also makes clutch bags from waste rugs. All the materials she uses are sourced locally, apart from ruffia that she imports from Madagascar.

One of the youngest artists at the market is Ms Ashley Mutisya, 23 who makes a variety of African jewellery from waste material from tailors. She started doing this while still in high school.

I was told I had a talent

“I used to make beaded earrings and necklaces and that is when everyone told me I had a talent. After I completed high school and went to college, I started looking for a job with no success, so I decided to concentrate on jewellery making on a wider scale,” she said.

Her skills have grown immensely and she now makes shoes from Ankara.

For many buyers, a collection of children’s toys made from soda bottle tops is something that cannot be missed.

According to Mr Isa Hamidi, the man behind the initiative, the idea came to him when his child began playing with bottle tops. This inspired him to make the toys in form of cars and animal figures.

International customers

Paintings range from drawings on boards to canvas. Mr Francis Ngugi, who is responsible for the canvas paintings at the market, said it was an art he learnt from a friend who was a retired teacher. After mastering the skill, he ventured out on his own but decided to use canvas, which, according to him, is better than board.

The pictures vary from animals, people, landscapes, and anything else requested by the client.

The market has attracted both local and international customers, who want it to be open everyday of the week.