East African Jua Kali Exhibition 2005
East African Jua Kali Exhibition 2005 .

East African Jua Kali Exhibition 2005

Dazzling fashions and intermediate technologies at East African Jua Kali.

By Enoch Mutabaazi and John Isingoma
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First published: December 8, 2005

Whether you are a resident of any of the three East African countries or a regular visitor to this region, you will not expect to find exceptionally durable indigenous garments and household items manufactured with a real sense of beauty and style.

Not in the least when the import dependent economies of the region are flooded with the crudely made and dumped items suffocating the up budding local manufacturers.

Items on exhibition
Items on exhibition.

However, the 7th East African Jua Kali Exhibition that ended in Kampala on Sunday December 4, 2005 not only proved that Africa is endowed with great potential and wealth of knowledge by its people, but also proved that many Africans are ready to compete with the best given the opportunity.

President Yoweri Museveni opened the exhibition. The exhibitors at the Jua Kali came from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda as the host. From the colorful Masai dress made from locally produced organic cotton to the meticulously crafted sculptures portraying the 1994 genocide in Rwanda; the exhibition sent a message of re-assurance.

Rwanda memorial at Jua Kali
Rwanda memorial at Jua Kali.

Better still, the items, mostly the fancied African designs like bitenge and children wear made from attractive masai fabric, went for a fair price of 20,000 and 8,000 Ushs shillings respectively compared to the imported ready made garments that double that price.

On the side of interior design, the shoppers were spoiled for the choice. One of the exhibitors Mike Lumala (Uganda) offered a variety of items to lovers of interior decor. Through his artistic talent, Lumala explores his imaginative beauty by creating artificial flowers with sticks and seeds, and then paints the flowers in gold, silver, yellow and lilac among other colors.

To say that Pien Florists from Nairobi are exceptional is an understatement. They were simply superb with artificial roses built in the telling sculptures with inscription of their national court of arms.

For the lovers of African jewelry the limit was their pockets. From hand made necklaces, bracelets and earrings to match with African print garments; the weeklong exhibition became a one-stop center with a good turn out amongst ladies and young people.

Jua Kali exhibitions are an initiative of regional governments to promote indigenous knowledge. The exhibitions are organized annually on a rotational basis. According to the organizers, the term Jua Kali means hot sun in Kiswahili. It is a coinage to describe small-scale business and start ups operating under scorching heat of the sun mainly on roadsides.

The annual East African Jua Kali other wise known as Nguvu Kazi exhibitions seek to expose the best the region can offer in handcrafts, wood and metal ware, textiles, leather and gift items. The exhibition also brings together artisans of stone carving, pottery, clay works, inventors, food production, engineering and personal care products.

“Each of these communities have a cultural identity exemplified in their unique songs, dance, traditional artifacts and technological know how,” says Timothy Mutai, a Kenyan who has participated in all the seven exhibitions.

Dancers at the Jua Kali exhibition
Dancers at the Jua Kali exhibition.

Mutai deals in African print out fits and jewelry made from Kenya. He says that the speedy implementation of the East African federation will ease the movement of traders and allow them to freely compete for the 100 million people strong market.

While Mutai is eager to have easy movement throughout the East African region, it is the lack of a common language that bothers Eunice Lindah from Kenya.

During this recently concluded exhibition, Lindah’s trouble was the inability of many Ugandans to speak Swahili. Although Swahili was this year adopted as official language for Uganda and East Africa, second to English, few Ugandans can speak it, let alone understand it.

Gilbert Sentibagwe from Rwanda thinks that the dreams of one East Africa state with one currency should include his country and Burundi since they are allowed to participate in the exhibition. “Then we shall see Jua Kali develop,” he says.

John Odeng a Ugandan who had turned up for shopping said the Jua Kali exhibition is a great idea because people are able to exchange knowledge and new technologies, which will help them grow.

Other Ugandan exhibitors like John Lugendo and Company Ltd took advantage of proximity to put on display their locally manufactured agricultural equipments like their rice thresher, candle maker, maize milling machine among others.

More photos from the exhibition:
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By Enoch Mutabaazi and John Isingoma
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First published: December 8, 2005
To learn more about Ultimate Media Consult go to www.ultimatemediaconsult.com.

Enoch Mutabaazi is a media practitioner at Ultimate Media Consult with more than six years experience in the print and electronic media. Since he majored in Broadcast Journalism at his graduate studies Mutabaazi first worked as a reporter at Uganda Television (now Uganda Broadcasting Corporation TV) before he discovered his multidimensional skills in writing and public relations at Ultimate Media Consult. He is currently the Production Executive at Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd and writes occasionally.

John Isingoma is a member of Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd. A social scientist by training, Isingoma is the Executive Secretary at Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd and after years training and practice in the media has become a dedicated writer and researcher.