What I Found at the Makutano Arts & Crafts Fair

Update (Jul 22, 2009): The next Makutano Junction 2009 will be held on Fri. Nov. 27 and Sat. Nov. 28 (10 a.m. – 6 p.m.) at Diamond Jubilee Hall in Dar es Salaam. For further information – both for participants and attendees – please contact:

Rachel Kessi
Tel: +255-784-782770
Email: [email protected]

The entrance fee will be 3,000 TSh for those over 18, while minors enter free!


I finally made it to the Makutano Arts & Crafts Fair last Sunday, late in the afternoon. For a fee of 3000 TSh, I had a great afternoon discovering Tanzanian arts and crafts. I was very impressed by what I saw!

Unlike many craft exhibitions that I have seen in East Africa, where most of the crafts are Kenyan imitations or imports, Makutano truly showcased Tanzanian goods. I saw furniture built from dhow driftwood, as well as art influenced by Zanzibar’s distinct culture. There were myriad creations from kanga, as well as from other local materials such as coconut wood.

To be honest, there were some Kenyan imports too, but they were very few and far between. The range of art media represented was exceptional and even included photography.

I will not attempt to describe the fair in its entirety. For that, you will just have to make it to the next one, which should be in about six months. Rather, I would like to tell you about 4 stalls whose wares stood out most for me.

Mama Masai – The first stall to catch my eye was Mama Masai. This stall featured brightly colored, beaded table settings (plate rings and napkin rings) in vibrant, elegant colors. Mama Masai showcased beadwork in gold, black and white, green, red, as well as the multicolored arrangement that is so typical of Maasai beadwork. The design style was that of traditional Maasai necklaces, but the use of the beadwork was what was truly creative and innovative. Used to adorn place settings at a dining table, the bead work would bring color and a flavor of the exotic to any table, anywhere in the world.

World of Baskets – Across from Mama Masai stood a stall which spoke to me of unadulterated pampering and pleasure. This stall featured pretty gift hampers filled with fruit and spa treatments that would be a wonderful gift for any woman, anywhere. World of Baskets, the artisans featured at this stall, (to use their own words) “offer a unique year-round gift program delivering fruit, gourmet, spa, wine, flower and plant gifts”. Although I had seen a similar idea implemented in Nairobi earlier this year, I found World of Baskets’s hampers finer and more aesthetically pleasing than anything I have seen in the region. The icing on the cake, at this stall, were the ladies that were running it. They seemed focused, competent, and customer-oriented – the kind of people that seem like they would ensure that their customer was satisfied – every time. This is a business to definitely watch out for.

Doreen Mashika –   One of the last stalls I visited was set up by Doreen Mashika, a Zanzibar-based designer that focuses on clothing accessories. This stall featured shoes made of leather and kitenge as well as bags and belts. There was a large selection of sandals and other strappy flat shoes, but what really caught my eye were the sexy stilettos made of kitenge. These stilettos were of designs comparable to the best in the world, but had that pure African touch. I can only imagine what they would look like with a matching kitenge outfit, or with a plain colored outfit which would show them off better. Wow! To top it off, in true fashionista style, the shoes were labeled, not only Doreen Mashika, but Doreen by Doreen Mashika. Beat that!

Shanga – Last, but definitely not least, I’d like to mention the stall that truly stole my heart on Sunday. This stall was by Shanga, an Arusha based jewelry business that specializes in making necklaces from beads and fabric. The fabric covered a wide range that included, among others, raw silk, chiffon, and kanga, in vibrant bold colors. If I lived anywhere near a Shanga store, I would have to monitor the number of times I visited the store, because I cannot imagine not being able to find something there that I would want to buy. Everything was so particular and beautiful! I hear Shanga sells necklaces via the Internet too, so if you are interested, please visit their website for more information.

I enjoyed visiting the Makutano Arts & Crafts Fair and am definitely looking forward to the next one. I had no clue that Tanzania had so much to offer in terms of arts and crafts.

If you too attended the fair and are looking for contact information for some of the showcased artists, you can find this information on the artist list of the Makutano website itself.

What caught your eye at the Makutano Fair this weekend? I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Biche

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4 thoughts on “What I Found at the Makutano Arts & Crafts Fair”

THANK YOU so much for your lovely words about Shanga! We love making those necklaces so much and love to see how many people are enjoying them. We only ever make them when we are happy and hope that comes across. We have so many plans…. sending people to West Africa to learn how to make the beads, working with handicapped people and promoting the Tanzanian Elite Runners thru our work. If ever you are in Arusha, plse email us and come and see our workshop!

Hi Saskia,

What a pleasure to receive feedback from someone at Shanga. I love the jewelry you make! The happiness with which you make them definitely does come across. It’s also really interesting to hear how you are making a difference in the community and the nation around you.

Please do keep me posted about new developments and products at Shanga.It would be my pleasure to share these new developments with the readers of my blog. My email address is (ChickAboutTown at Gmail dot com – sorry I have to spell it out like that to avoid spam)

I wish you all the best with all your proects at Shanga. I look forward to getting in touch someday when I am in Arusha.

Regards,
Biche
(ChickAboutTown at Gmail dot com)

Hi there,

Any news on when the next 2009 Makutano is going to be. Their website does not seem to be working! I love these fairs and they become more colourful and brighter each time! Really looking forward to the nexdt one.

Thanks!

Hi Dawn,

Welcome to ChickAboutTown!

Unfortunately, I have no idea when the next Makutano Fair will be. I’ll let you know if I find out before the next one.

Biche

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