Kampala has many places where you can buy art and craft pieces. But on asking for a quick recommendation, majority will most likely suggest African Village.
It is against that backdrop that on Friday at 6:00pm I decided to make an outing to the coveted shopping village located on Buganda road.
Just as any other psyched individual, l looked forward to stunning designs. My mind was screaming out expensive. Huh.
As l walked into the stores, they were all live in color with different shades that gave the atmosphere more beauty and that exquisite look even from afar.
My eyes could not help, but gaze at the wonderful works of artists and color.
I met this jolly, amicable and smart lady called Bridget Kobusingye, a shop owner at African village who l asked to be my tour guide. She was positive.
When l asked Kobusingye why most people refer to African village as the Africa in Kampala, the response sounded so prepared I realized she has had many inquire on the same.
“African village is known as Africa in Kampala because of all cultural norms that are in it, a life given through art pieces, a place that represents Uganda’s diverse culture and East Africa at large bringing back the ancient art that our fore fathers used to create.”
On Buganda road, there are three outstanding stores namely; the Exposure, Africa and the East African.
The three stores have a diverse range of products that are pleasing to the eye ranging from the beautiful rainbow colors of beaded necklaces, beautiful art pieces given life, beaded shoes, baskets and so much more that will captivate and encourage you to buy almost everything.
I had to buy shoes, a necklace and a bag for myself but deep down l wanted almost everything that l came across.
A number of people visit this place, from tourists to local residents. Folks from all walks of life come to shop, visit, study and buy finished goods or raw materials used to reproduce new products all at affordable rates.
“We get close to 200 sometimes 500 people a day but most of them are foreigners who come for tours and make this place their last stopover to buy souvenirs and gifts for their loved ones,” Kobusingye relayed.
They have varieties of crafts including baskets, shoes, clothes, statues, bags, jewelry, paintings, drums, antiques, black wood animals, dresses, beads, glasses, mats, musical instruments, bracelets, hats and many more.
Their customer care was out of this world. “Honestly … who keeps a smile all day calling and telling people hello even if they do not buy anything from you,” l pondered.
But trust me none of them gave up on calling for customers for close to the three hours that l was in there.
In fact, when I told some of them that I was window-shopping, they told me “it’s okay, one time you will come back and buy.”
This showed me that all the shop owners keep their hopes high all-day all-year that someone will come and buy something from them.
For all of you, who have lost hope, try African village you will see faces of hopeful energetic people and I am glad to note that 95% are the youths many of us would pick a leaf from.
At every shop when l was getting out they would still tell me “thanks for coming please come back again.” Huh. This kept me thinking how much an impact it would have on Ugandan business personalities if they embraced such an attitude.
When l asked Kobusingye what their challenges may be, she looked at me for some times and said:
“They are many but let me break them down for you; the first one is Language barrier not everyone who comes here knows English or the local languages like Swahili that are commonly used. Like l told you earlier we get people from all over the world … some are French, Portuguese, Arabs, Germans and we struggle to communicate with them.”
The other challenges they face are of conmen who pose as Clients and end up giving them fake dollars when they purchase items.
Then there are lazy fellows who just copy and paste their works like shoes, necklaces and paintings.
They also have seasonal markets that mostly affect them according to the number of tourists the country hosts.
Factors like Climate, heavy competition, heavy taxation of products during transportation and many others have also taken a toll on their trades.
All I can say is that it was a very remarkable experience yet so near.