Let me start by just saying my weekend was unexpectedly awesome. I didn’t have any official plans (not many more weekends where that’s the case) so I went with the African flow. A coworker said she was going to “Tinga Tinga” to pick up a custom painting. I had never heard of it so I went along for the ride. We arrived at Tinga Tinga and there were makeshift art shops with dirt floors set up along an area in Dar es Salaam known as the Tinga Tinga Arts Cooperative Society (TACS).
Each shop was like a mini art gallery. I walked in and was immediately mesmerized. The hand-painted artwork looked like it could easily be sold for about $125-$500 in the United States. I asked one of the painters how much the largest painting cost, and he told me 120,000 tzs (Tanzanian Schillings). That’s roughly $75. A steal, right? My pictures don’t do their paintings justice.
The “Tinga Tinga” style was developed by Edward Said Tingatinga, and is characterized by using several layers of bicycle paint and cartoon imaginative figures. One of the painters also showed me a portrait of a family that he painted and it was very life-like. I asked him to do a custom painting for me so stay tuned for pictures!
The following day my coworkers and I went to Uhuru Street. We went in search of fabric to have clothes made by a local seamstress. People tell all kinds of horror stories about being robbed and pick-pocketed at Kariakoo Market, and since Uhuru Street has a similar vibe, I was advised not to wear jewelry or carry a shoulder bag that could be ripped from my body. I only carried a small wristlet that I guarded very intensely the entire time. I didn’t carry a cell phone (which means no pictures *insert sad face here*) and separated my money in various places on my body so if I was pick-pocketed, I wouldn’t lose all my money in one fell swoop.
We asked our taxi driver to wait for us so we had a guaranteed ride back to the hotel. He agreed and even managed to fill the language barrier gap between some of the ‘vendors’ and me, and made sure I was receiving a fair deal (Thanks, Morgan!). As we roamed the street, each ‘vendor’ enticed us to come to their booth/store. I tended to only visit a booth or store if I saw a fabric that caught my eye. I was pleasantly surprised at the variety of pieces available. I learned some basic swahili to describe what I was interested in: “kitenge (pronounced keh-ten-gay),” which is a thick material used to make proper dresses and skirts and “kanga (pronounced con-ga),” which is more lightweight, includes a message in Swahili, and used mostly to make skirts for lounge wear.
Kitenge & Kanga
I ended up buying 3 pieces of kitenge and 1 piece of kanga. People could tell I was not Tanzanian because of how I was dressed, but they weren’t sure if I was African (yes, people have guessed that I’m from Ghana, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, and Nigeria…everywhere but the United States lol), so most of the time I really only spoke when necessary. Of course they tried to up-charge, but I managed to get them down to 6,000 or 7,000 tzs for a piece of 4-meter fabric, which is about $4-$5. I’m so excited to have pencil and maxi skirts made! I hope they turn out just how I envision in my head.
Saturday ended up being relatively low-key…or so I thought. My coworker and I had dinner at the Sea Cliff Hotel. We knew there was a fundraiser with Jane Goodall happening there that night but that wasn’t on our agenda at all. As we were leaving, we were looking at pictures of famous people who’ve visited the hotel. We were literally looking at Jane Goodall’s picture on the wall when my coworker turns around and says “Wow, here she is.” I turn around and she’s within arm’s length of me! I couldn’t believe it. She had a small entourage around her so we asked one of the gentlemen if she’d mind taking a picture with us. He asked her and she obliged.
After we took the picture, she asked if we were in Dar es Salaam for work or if we lived there. She extended her arm for a handshake and then walked off into the sunset. Well, not really because it was already night time but you get the point. It was a very cool, serendipitous moment.
Sunday, I spent the morning lounging at the pool…reading, relaxing, tanning and swimming. I did the same last Sunday and I must say, it’s a great way to start my week.
Next weekend I head to Mafia Island to swim with whale sharks. Yes, you read that right. Whale Sharks. I can’t believe it either. They aren’t really sharks because they only eat plankton but I’m guessing they’re called whale sharks for a reason. But hey, they say when in Rome, do as the Romans do. So swimming with whale sharks it is!
Photo Credit: Ashlee Tuck