It’s the Hobby Lobby of Nairobi! The shady West African bead and handicraft market!
My friend Megan told me about the place, though she had never been. So, me, Megan and her friend Marianne decided to go together one weekend. The plan was to meet up there, which wasn’t so easy. This place was in the heart of downtown Nairobi – In a place very culturally distant from my Westlands bubble, a place where business is going on everywhere and traffic is chaotic with buses and overloaded trucks and cars and PEOPLE squeezing into every inch of space possible. I had a driver accompany me that day since driving downtown AND finding parking is mostly out of the question – Plus, there is no way I could find my way around there without hitting a pedestrian or ending up in Timbuktu (literally). My driver wouldn’t even let me out of the car until my friends showed up since he was honestly worried about my safety down there. So this is all to say, this place was in an area of Nairobi that i don't frequent but for Hobby Lobby, I had to try.
The place has no sign – you just have to know to find the Safety Line Lodge – a hole in the wall joint – and then find the nearby stairway and just go up. The stairway is dark and leads to an open sort of courtyard where you see about 3-4 small rooms/shops. It's the type of place that I've been taught my whole life to avoid..you know the creepy, dark stairway leading to the shady hidden from the street rooms.
But it was so pretty great - All the beads that make all the necklaces sold at the artisan markets were there! The recycled glass beads, the bone beads, the painted beads, every color and size imaginable..all sorts of beads could be bought by the strand.
The shop owner was not happy about me taking photos so I could only take a few inconspicuously. Imagine what you see in those photos, just covering 4 large walls. There were TONS of beads. And those cool beaded drums – those were around $60 though. The beads varied in cost – some were around $1 for the whole strand, some were like $20 or higher. I bought a few of the cheap strands of white bone and then some brass pendants – I’m no Tiffany and Co designer but I figured I’d take a stab at making something. How can you really mess up a white strand of beads anyways???
Besides beads they had some pretty cool West African textiles – There is a noticeable difference between east African and west African textiles – the West Africans are known for the stuff; so colorful and vibrant and interesting. So I couldn’t resist getting a couple of pieces – No clue what I’m going to use them for – but I keep thinking that once I’m gone, I’m gone and maybe I’ll wish I bought more stuff. Okay, that’s Doubtful since I own enough African materials, masks, art, jewelry to open my own shop at this point – but I figure that if I was living at home, biweekly stops at Costco, Target and CVS buying stuff I don't really need would cost me even more..so I’m justified. Anyways, I’m thinking I’ll use them to make a wall hanging or headboard for a bed, or maybe table runner?? Or perhaps a nice toilet paper or tissue box cover…KIDDING. jeez.
Here’s my final products on the jewelry:
And this one below is something I want to make but I don’t quite know how to execute it. I don’t have any clasps or anything..I just have some elastic string that someone gave me. Hmm, I’ll have to make up an equation and come up with some logarithm cause it’s such rocket science. LAME.
Any ideas on what I can do with the cloth I bought? Lemme know!