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Reisverslag Gastblogger: Buying Capulanas in Mozambique
1 februari 2017
Gastblogger: Buying Capulanas in Mozambique
Today the topic is an African textile called capulana. Capulanas are bright and colorful rectangles of cloth that are extremely popular in Mozambique. They are similar to sarongs, but made from a waxy material, and they feature patterns ranging from abstract tesselations to portraits of Bob Marley that take up the whole two meter span. You can't go far in Mozambique without seeing women wearing whole capulanas as skirts, dresses, baby slings, head coverings, shawls, blankets, or scarves, and they are used to make clothes, upholstery, curtains, etc. Buying capulanas in the markets is an evocative Mozambican experience. For me, capulanas are especially nostalgic because I grew up with bedroom curtains that my mother made from ones she had bought when we took a trip to Mozambique back in 1997.
When we arrived in Vilanculos on Monday (see http://timcevat.waarbenjij.nu/reisverslag/4963737/african-adventure-30-jan-1-feb-mozambique), Tim found a tailor to repair the holes in our clothes and attach patches to our packs. The tailor, Solomão, was working away with an old pedal-powered Singer sewing machine, which had the advantage of working even though the power was out. I was planning to get a hat made, both as a souvenir from my travels, and as a way to shield my blonde head from the strong African sun. While Solomão was working, I remembered my idea and excitedly expanded the concept to be a whole new outfit made out of capulanas. Tim caught my excitement and decided to commission a shirt.
Solomão (the Portuguese form of the name Solomon) is an interesting character. He came from a poor family, and tried out various professions before deciding to be a tailor. At 22 years old, he's accomplished a lot in his life. At one point his system played some music by South African superstar Brenda Fassie, which got us talking about South Africa. It turned out he'd spent some time in Johannesburg, so I had a chance to practice my rusty, very limited Zulu. In addition to a small amount of Zulu, he speaks fluent English and Portuguese, and his mother tongue.
We started the project on Tuesday morning. Solomão and his assistant Samson wore outfits they'd made from capulanas themselves to inspire us. First we discussed the plan, then went to the central market to buy capulanas. After deliberation, we chose five. Then it was time to haggle on the price.
When buying in the markets in Mozambique, the first price given by the seller is only the start of a conversation that ends with money changing hands. It's poor form to pay the first amount mentioned. The first price was MT 1200 (€17) per capulana. After some discussion we agreed on MT 1000 (€13) each. Another friend of mine recently told me that, if you realize that the seller agreed too fast you can still go negotiate down, even if you've already agreed on a price. So I started up again and talked him down to MT 800 (€11). Then it was back to the shop to take measurements and start sewing!
In the end, Tim got a cool new shirt, and I got a custom outfit, duffel bag, and a gift for someone special back home, all for relatively cheap. We ran out of time to make the hat, though! I recommend capulana goods to anyone visiting Mozambique.
If you'd like to learn more about the capulana industry, read this interview with a Mozambican entrepreneur who is building a business around these important cultural items: http://www.lionessesofafrica.com/blog/2017/1/15/startup-story-of-wacy-zacarias
Foto's bij verslag (1)
2 februari 2017 13:15 | Door: Annette
I'm so glad you're travelling with Tim! It's better for all of u's at home..! ;) Stay safe and have lots of fun! Big hug for both
3 februari 2017 20:45 | Door: Philip Bliss
Hi Annette, it's a pleasure to travel with Tim since our philosophies of travel complement each other well. And you're totally right that having two guys together changes the situation and makes it more safe. Stay safe in NL!