Arts Cooperative

Dar es Salaam Travel Blog

 › entry 4 of 15 › view all entries
So Mahimbo and Ale scheduled a brief "shopping" trip for us in the afternoon to keep us busy. I expected a mall, but of course our hosts were much more cultured and meaningful than you expect from an average person and had other plans in mind for us. We ended up in a cul desac of wood and tin edifices that were completely covered in local paintings.

I, of course, being the snobby American I am, took one look at the garish colors and untrained brush strokes and immediately asked Jafar to sneak me away to the Slipway market. I wanted to buy some shadowboxes I had seen the day before with wooden sculptures of villagers and Masaai warriors inset into them. Since I already knew what I wanted, I was able to get in and out of the Slipway Hotel, with a juice drink no less in approximately 15 minutes.
I obviously haven't acclimated yet if I am doing mad dash shopping only to come back and find people still sauntering around for another 2 hours.

I returned to find Louisa prompting me to visit an "arts cooperative" and I was thinking "what the hell is that?" In the very back of this cul de sac there is a hot, humid, and turpentine smelling room full of goods and paintings from local artisans. I was really surprised to see the quality of work here - as it was vastly different from the art hanging outside when you enter the street. You can tell these artists are probably handpicked by some sort of association to create art in exchange for a stipend plus 20% in commissions. There was nothing that caught my eye and wouldn't let go, but multiple purchases were made by Fabrice, Louisa, Eva, Marie-Josee and Francisco.
I helped Louisa cut the price of her painting from $45 to $30. We saw a number of painters sitting inside the cooperative working on paintings with no easles or focused light. Louisa asked one of them how long it takes for them to finish a painting of that size, and we were answered with "fastest is 3 weeks." I was so shocked and immediately sorry I had bargained down the price of Louisa's painting so much.

I, sadly, live in such a tiny apartment that there really isn't room for large paintings. They accomodate the sales to tourists by painting on a stretchy canvas and then spraying with a fixative so that the paint neither runs nor sticks. They roll the top sheet of canvas up and roll it in cardboard to ship home.

I think Fabrice won the prize for best bargaining. He bought a large painting that they wanted $200 for $100. Perhaps one day when I have a home (or live in Africa! =) I can find something here that suits me.
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!