Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Merkato (again)

Wednesday June 16, 2010

UGGGG! Back to Merkato yesterday. But it was much better than before because I didn’t go at it alone this time. I brought one of the girls from the shop came with me and we bought things I wouldn’t have otherwise considered as she explained how they would craft them. There were other things to, like medium sized knitting needles that they needed and were using to weave the braids tighter. It makes sense, but it’s all that crafty stuff that I would never consider.

But here is the other thing that makes me crazy about Merkato, and it has nothing to do with negotiating prices or the nonsensical arrangement of the booths. It is that everyone involves themselves in your business. I think people literally hang around Merkato just to claim they “assisted” and hold out their hand for money. As we were leaning up against out taxi, having a discussion about how we would use what we just bought and what else we needed three guys came into our audience, one of whom took it upon himself to try and offer his expert opinion. Then he proceeded to follow us around and jump on the answers to my questions directed at Yemamu, in incomprehensible English. When I tried to offer a reasonable price, he thwarted my negotiation, by explaining why the stall-keeper wanted what he asked. “Very precious beads, of course.” Distracting as this was, the problem really arose when he demanded money of me for his “negotiation” and “directional” services. Um sorry sir, no, this would have been even more productive and efficient if you neglected to “help.” Sometimes watching is helping.

I am excited to see what the women will do with the supplies. I am kind of talking a step back on this one. It is kind of an experiment to see what they produce when “on their own.” After I explained a little, and vetoed materials that were simply to gaudy and flashy, I want to see what they will come up with that can possibly be marketed in the US. Ethiopian style does not generally mesh with the typical American audience, and that is why I think they girls struggle at the shop, because their target audience is the families. It’s a difficult balance because I don’t want to be down on their cultural crafts, nor do seek to discourage them completely, but we need to achieve some balance between “cultural” and “wearable.”

Supplies are not a problem. I know I can literally find anything at a better than reasonable price and the women are really crafty, so any suggestions, things you would be interested in wearing, shoot me an e-mail. As always, I am open to anything and willing to try even more!

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