The corner of High Street and Somerset is a melting pot of African tongues. Here, under the shadow of the Drostdy Arch, lies an informal arts and craft market that stretches from Albany Natural Sciences Museum to the Rhodes Art School Gallery. This is a place where Kiswahili mingles with Shona, and isiXhosa dances with Akan.
Abbas Ma-azu, a Ghanian trader specialising in handbags.Photo: Sihle Nthembu
Most of the crafters who sell their work here come specifically to Grahamstown for the Festival. According to 36 – year – old Ghanaian Abbas Ma-azu, who sells handbags made of African print fabrics, the festival offers a rare opportunity for him to move some of his crafts in bulk. “This is the second year I have come to the festival and last year I had to leave after a few days because I
didn’t have any more products to sell,” he says.
“This year I planned ahead and I brought more stuff because people really want to buy one – of –a – kind products.” According to Farai Muzeza, who is from Zimbabwe but is currently based in Cape Town, the festival’s friendly atmosphere is why he has kept returning here for the past six years.
“In Cape Town we had some trouble recently with the xenophobic attacks but we were never scared to come here because in Grahamstown we get treated like brothers and sisters and not outsiders,” he says.
Wire artist Maxwell Maumbe who is now a ten – year veteran of the festival says he first came to the event via bus all the way from Zimbabwe. “My friends had been telling me a lot of positive things about the festival and so I decided to come here, and after two years of travelling from Zimbabwe for the event, I decided to settle in South Africa because I had found a market for my work.” Maumbe adds that he only hopes the good weather holds up for the rest of the Festival.
“It’s so rare to have sunshine in Grahamstown and last year there was rain so we had to keep opening and closing.
This year I’m hopeful the good weather will hold and we can go home smiling,” says Maumbe.
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