Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Stone Town

We arranged for a tour of Stone Town with eco + culture tours ($30 pp including r/t transportation). Our guide, Haji Hamdan showed us some sights as we travelled from Kikadini to Stone Town, and then saw the city. We started by walking down some of Stone Town's famous twisty alleyways, lined with shops and boutiques. Some look like the basic touristy places you find anywhere, but TIZ (This Is Zanzibar). Everything I knew and expected about Africa is slightly different here. The "airport art" - what we call the mass produced reproductions you find in any gift shop or airport were made here, on the island. The tinga tinga art (not the BBC show) is given to local villages, along with a drawing. The villagers copy the drawing and repaint. It's not that different than buying a poster at a museum - a copy of the original. People also carve new masks and statues. Some of the work is whatever, and some of it is excellent. I have to thank my friend Keita and the others who educated me on African art - shopping here takes a discerning eye. 

We saw Christ Church Cathedral, which was erected on the site of the old slave market. This was my first visit to a place like that. I'm still not really ready to write about what I saw. I'll have to go back, maybe take more pictures, and let the history sink in. But I know I'll write about it - a story, an essay, a novel, I don't know. Legal slavery was abolished with the help of Livingstone in the 1800's, but flourished illegally until 1909. 1909. That just blows me away.
We also passed the Old Market. Having shopped at the Gbarnga or Suakoko markets almost weekly, I marvelled at how clean and well-lit this place was. My students freaked out a bit, but got it back together. We stopped at 6 Degrees South, a lovely restaurant with amazing food. Then we toured a bit more. I want to buy everything, but that can’t happen. At best I’ll buy a small reminder that I was here. And plan for next year.

Speaking of Livingstone, we stopped off at a restaurant named after him before we returned to Kikadini. They sponsor a jazz and literary festival every year. I’ll have to ask them for details.

One of the participants had some settling in issues. I expected this. It's tough for Americans to visit a place that reflects so little of our culture. We don't get those reinforcing cues and can run a bit astray. I saw lots of this in Liberia (and yes, I promise I'll write about all of those nutty expats.) I gave the participant my advice: Africa requires patience, persistence, and flexibility.

We got things settled and everyone went to bed.

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