Sunday, July 25, 2010

Finding 'Kenyan' fabrics in Kenya? Impossible!

After the first week of wearing dresses that I had custom made in Ghana during my last internship the month before, I thought it would be nice to have some dresses made in Kenya while I was here. Since I didn't want to take any chances on getting a slow tailor that wouldn't get my dresses made in time, I asked "Mama Rose", the adminstrative officer at Yehu that kept telling me all week that I looked so "smart" in my dresses (I quickly learned that she did not at all think I looked like a nerdy librarian, but that being 'smart' is the Kenyan way of saying that she liked my outfit). Mama Rose assured me that she had a tailor that would be able to get my dresses turned around for me before I left, but that I needed to get the fabric before he took my measurements. So this weekend, I planned to head off to the market with Mel and another Yehu employee to find the perfect Kenyan fabrics.

The market was abuzz on Saturday morning with all types of shops and vendors and customers rushing to get what they needed before lunchtime. We walked around the fabrics markets for about an hour, but everything looked like something I would pick up in India (which I already have 5 outfits from there when my luggage was lost 3 years ago), a burka, or something I could get at a fabric store in the US. It wasn't until I showed them a brightly flowered print and kept saying 'I want something Kenyan' that they realized I wanted kanga fabric. Typically, kangas are used to wrap around like a skirt or to wrap around a mama's torso to tow her little one on her back, but they come in the most interesting and fun designs that I wanted a dress made from them. After a painstaking deliberation and negotiation, I finally decided on 2 kangas at about 300 shillings each (less than $4) and we were on our way back home. Next week, I will be taking them to the tailor to see what amazing dresses he can design from these 'Kenyan' fabrics.

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