27 February 2007

Maputo Baixa Saturday Art Market

Every Saturday morning, artists and craftsmen (and the ubiquitous middleman) hold a market in the Baixa of Maputo. The Baixa area is the oldest part of the city and is located below the sand escarpment that dominates your view if you come via water to Maputo. The big N-S avenues like Lenin, Marx, Engels, and Cabral all lead down to the waterfront. (Cabral was an Marxist African revolutionary that founded PAIGC. ) Mozambique is a socialist democracy for anyone who's having difficulty with all the communist/socialist hero worship. Socialism and Communism don't preclude democracy, its just the way they get applied to reality (see also Capitalism). I love the irony of the bourgeoisie shops full of technology and gadgets lining Avenida Karl Marx.

On to the shopping...

Wire lizards, snakes, and bugs. The 3 that look like they are about to run away, came home with me. I got a cockroach, a snake, and a chameleon. This picture makes cool wallpaper by the way.

Wire and beaded sculpture is very popular. It is often made with scrap and recycled materials and a lot of attention is paid to little details. Vehicles have wheels that spin, little guitars have strings, little critters have realistic (and fantastical) colors, shapes, patterning, etc. The smaller the item the more expensive it is, because of the labor that goes into creating all the detail.

In many markets, there are middlemen who do the selling. While there are middlemen here, artists often sell their own work. Usually, they sit in the back working on a project. If you don't see something you'd like, you can put in an order and come back in a week or two. These guys were just chilling out and shooting the breeze. The one that is waving wanted me to take a picture so that I could take the picture (I asked) to Europe. I told him I was from the US and he asked where because he has friends in LA. Of course, they told me to come back and buy more another day.

This sculptor had some really neat pieces and knew what his work was worth. He uses tree trunks and branches to form people. The faces, and sometimes other parts like hands, are polished to a high sheen, but the rest is left rough. Some of the women figures wear capulanas or head scarves in traditional print - so a wood and fabric media. They are very beautiful.

A traditional instrument and musician adding to the sounds of market bargaining.

Tourists trying to bargain. Most items in the market are not all that expensive though. Bargaining is an art, but Mozambicans don't practice it to the extreme of a Moroccan or Turkish carpet seller. ;-) It is relaxed and more about getting a deal for buying multiples rather than singles of things.

This is my village and my people - I bought it and the elephant that is sneaking up to raid the homemade beer that is fermenting outside the little hut. Probably the only time it is okay for me to say this as an anthropologist. I haven't named it yet. I'd bet interviewing here wouldn't get me far. Informant responses would be rather wooden and stiff. Sorry, couldn't resist.

I didn't see these the last time I was here in 2004. The little tablas remind me of Dia de los Muertos boxes containing everyday scenes that I've seen for sale in San Antonio's Mercado (Texas) - sans skeletons. They make them for all sorts of events. I bought a bush school for Chris for his birthday - the little boys and girls were learning the alphabet which I thought was appropriate for a 2nd grade teacher working on his doctorate in "Literacy and Learning." They also had people getting blood transfusions, fugitives, Hash runners, a football game, government officials sitting at a table planning Mozambique's development, a woman giving birth in a tree*, bars, and markets. My friend Natalina, a Senior Fulbrighter (there's a pic of her son following), studies informal markets and she got a miniature Xipamanine Market because that's where she's done many interviews.

My new bicycle. The wheels turn and the front hand-brakes work. Its about 1 foot tall by 1.5 feet long. I have no idea how I am going to get this home or through the mail without it being totally thrashed.

My friend, Etienne, is very pleased with his toy helicopter that his mom just bought him. The helicopter is made out of wire, with hand-sewn leather seats, and a battery hook-up to make the blades turn on their own. Really cool!

I'm not sure what this man is weaving, but its common to see men weaving in Maputo.

*A woman gave birth in a tree during Cyclone Eline in 2000. Her and her baby's rescue was all over the news. Everyone in Mozambique knows about the woman who gave birth in a tree.

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