Haute Couture, Mwanza style

It was probably the only time I was ever going to be able to afford “made-to-measure, just for me only” shoes, so the route to the duka was a little underwhelming. I counted 5 condoms, an unknowable amount of Konyagi packets, several suspicious looking bones, a plethora of mango stones… “I’m taking you the shortcut route”. No kidding.

After half an hour of taking in the ‘scenery’ and politely mambo-ing to every yell of “wewe, mzungu” we rounded a mountain of old car tyres and there was the shop… I think they were as suprised to see me as I was to find a “cobbler” in amongst this jungle of used car parts.

It was not the shoe-fitting one would imagine with a bespoke shoe – I sat on a tool box whilst a man holding an incredibly large panga pulled my foot this way and that on top of a rubber tyre. The panga is also incredibly sharp,  I thought as it carved my flip flop out as if through a slice of dairylea.

There was a lot of banter I gathered – the kiswahili lessons are paying off – mostly about charging me a mzungu price (10,000) rather than the actual price (4,000). I’d like to say that things warmed up a little on the production of my Canon camera, but telling these guys that they looked “very good” and “beautiful” after each shot did not win me any new rafikis.

It’s actually a very cool way to recycle. The flip flops and sandals are made from old tyres and carved to fit your foot. Holes are made in the sole of the shoe to weave the straps in whatever style you like and these are nailed into place when size is confirmed and voila!, you’re very own unique pair of footwear.

I paid the local price, largely due to my friend who is Tanzanian and banters a little better than I (but for his troubles was told that he washes the bottoms of mzungus and will be shot when he gets to Europe). They’re incredibly comfortable and really, truly look better on than off. In other places they’ll add beads for you but I decided to quit while I was ahead…


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