Are you contemplating buying a Kitengi dress, scarf, Kikuyu bag, African sandals or perhaps bangles, ear rings and African necklaces? Maybe your preferences are more cow horn saucers, candle stands, wooden mortars or wooden African masks? All of these, and more, can be easily found in Kampala.
In fact, the list of African crafts and souvenirs that can be bought at craft markets in Kampala is endless. Where to buy them is another matter with quality and price spanning the spectrum from the low quality garb, cheap African arts and crafts being sold out on the streets to the high priced crafts and souvenirs in shops and malls around Kampala.
Your first stop when craft shopping should always be the craft markets and there are several in and around Kampala city, that sell authentic, good quality African arts and crafts.
Exposure Africa is a favourite with Kampalians mainly because of its location. Located in the heart of Kampala city on Buganda Road, this craft market has several stalls that sell all kinds of African crafts and souvenirs. Most stalls in the market sell the same items so the bargaining prowess of the shopper determines the price at which they take those African sandals home.
Some stalls have fixed prices but most stalls the trader will vary the price according to your appearance. Usually, the traders always start out with a price 2,000 – 5,000 UGX higher in order to begin bargaining.
Although Exposure Africa is quite popular among Kampalians, most African crafts and souvenirs are bought by foreigners and tourists “Ugandans only buy bags, African sandals, bangles and ear rings,” says stall owner Abubakar Ssentongo, as he points to these items. “But there are other various products they can buy that would be of good use to them like salad spoons crafted out of wood, wooden calendars for the living room, cow horn saucers and metallic candle stands.”
Next to Exposure Africa on Buganda Road is Craft Africa. It has various stalls that sell numerous African crafts like batiks, Masai blankets, Uganda Cranes jerseys, Kikuyu bags, coconut ear rings and other souvenirs. Bangles cost 5,000 UGX, African sandals range from 15,000 UGX to 50,000 UGX and ear rings cost about 5,000 UGX to UGX 30,000. Necklaces can be as low as 5,000 UGX to 10,000 UGX while the wooden necklaces and coconut necklaces are higher priced at 20,000 UGX to 45,000 UGX. Security is taken seriously at both markets as there are guards at the entrance who check everyone that enters.
Both markets are open seven days a week from Monday to Sunday and shops open from 8am to 6pm except on Public holidays when they are closed.
Another centrally located market is the Uganda Arts and Crafts Village on Dewinton Road next to the National Theatre. This craft market is well organised and has a number of retail stalls arranged in a semi-circle that vend different art and crafts plus souvenirs. The clientele is mixed with a fair range of locals, foreigners and tourists. The products are a wide range with kids clothes made from kitenge (20,000 UGX), ladies bags (15,000 – 30,000 UGX), African flat shoes (25,000 – 30,000 UGX), African masks (80,000 – 100,000 UGX) depending on the size, sculptures, Kitenge dresses (30,000 – 40,000 UGX), photo frames (15,000 – 20,000 UGX), bangles (2,000 – 3,000 UGX), as well as cooking pots, flower pots and African baskets.
“We have good quality authentic craft products here at the Crafts V.ge,” says Edith Kamuhanda “The only negatives are that there’s too much competition with cheap fabricated crafts on streets and the economic situation is not good which has led to clients being few. The rent too is high judging by the fact that we are crafts sellers and our goods are quite cheap.”
The Uganda Arts and Craft Village craft market is open from 8pm to 6pm seven days a week except on public holidays.
If you trust your bargaining skills and want to buy Africa crafts at a fairly cheaper price directly from the craftsperson, then try the Friday Craft Market in Nsambya along Ggaba Road. Every Friday artistes parade their crafts including baskets, beads, batiks, necklaces and sandals for enthusiastic clients. If you want cheap authentic art crafts and souvenirs directly from the artists then this is the place for you.
For those who prefer to shop and buy in malls and shops there are a few sprinkled about town. Popular shops are in 1000 Cups Coffee House Craft Shop on Buganda Road, MishMash Craft Shop on Acacia Avenue and the popular Banana Boat retail store in Kisementi in Kamwokya, Garden City and Lugogo Malls. Shoppers will find prices fixed and higher with sandals at 39,500-44,000 UGX and African Kikoyi or Kitengi for around 31,000 UGX, T-shirts range from 20,000 – 30,000 UGX but they usually like the convenience and knowing that the items are authentic.