Sunday, November 23, 2008


The exciting thing that happened this week is that two of the women who have recently moved to Nairobi have both purchased cars. No more reliance on cabs for them and less reliance on cabs for me.

To inaugurate Risha’s car, we went to a fashion show Saturday night. I had received an invitation to this event earlier in the week and was a bit puzzled as to how I got on the mailing list. The invitation promised the themes of Mafia wives, tribal colors, tattoos and Chinatown - how could I resist a mix like that? The designer was a local and apparently a big name in Kenyan fashion. The event was part of the annual Samosa Festival, designed to bring together Indian and African culture and was held at the Nairobi Museum. We arrived at the time on the invitation, and were told the event would be on Africa time and would start an hour later than stated. Luckily the cafĂ© was open and we were able to have cool drink and wait.

When we were finally allowed into the hall where the show was to take place, I saw a guy I know setting up cameras. He’s the owner of the web design firm we have been using for ACTwatch, and also does film, has a sound studio and other graphic-type stuff. He’s the one who put me on the invitation list. The room was about half-full and we took our seats and waited for the show to begin. The show was held in the Great Hall which houses a tall, broad installation of painted gourds in the center of the room. A wide marble staircase at one end of the room led up to the galleries. The models had to negotiate about two dozen steps to get to the “runway” which circled the sculpture.

The first designer was a current student and it showed. The pieces were ill-fitting and many looked unfinished. The models did their best though, gingerly making their way up and down the stairs, and attempting to show attitude while wearing very ugly clothes.

During the break, a group of six dancers entertained with a mix of Latin, swing and hip-hop. They started off tentatively, but by the end of their set, had warmed up and looked like they were enjoying themselves.

Next up was another local designer. She was a professional whose clothes were well-finished and fit better. Nothing was particularly cutting-edge or “runway”, nor was it particularly wearable, either. It was pretty middle-of-the road, topped off with a lot of sparkles.

The next diversion was a group of boys who performed acrobatics. Not only were they impressive, but they came dangerously close to the gourd installation, yet somehow managed not to fall into it. That in itself was worth the price of admission.

Finally, the main event - the designs from John Kavete, star of the show. By now, the models were feeling confident going up and down the stairs and were workin’ it. First up, were the “Mafia wives.” The models were dressed in very 80’s like clothes with wide shoulder pads and each carried a cigarette in a holder, 1920’s style. It really makes you wonder where the Kenyans get their information. We couldn’t tell if the next set of designs were the tattoo, Chinatown or tribal color theme, but the clothes were either linen or shiny satin, with some embellishments. They weren’t bad, and at least they fit fairly well.
The show finally ended and we met up with a group of ex-pats at the Mexican/Italian restaurant I had been to before. Unbeknownst to us, it was another venue for the Samosa festival, and a special concert was underway. An Indian/African jazz fusion band was playing and although it made dinner conversation difficult, it was a fun night.

Today, we christened Amy’s car and drove out to the Bizarre Bazaar, a craft fair on the grounds of the Karen Blixen house. This annual event hosts local vendors, but unlike the previous crafts fair I had attended, this was much higher priced. Many of the vendors have nearby shops and we even found some items that had US price tags on them that were marked up at 5 times or more the dollar price. This event clearly catered to the well-heeled westerners and the former colonists of Nairobi, and there wasn’t a black person in sight. There wasn’t anything to buy that couldn’t be found at the Masai market of TJ Maxx for a fraction of the price.

Overall, it was nice to be able to share in the independence that having a car brings, even if it’s someone else’s car.

1 comment:

Michele said...

you are having *way* too much fun over there!!