Shopping in Greenmarket Square, South Africa
I made a promise to myself when I traveled to Cape Town, South Africa that I would only buy souvenirs (art, jewelry, etc.) from people if I had the chance to meet the artist. When you meet the artist, you get to learn more about the trade, the culture, and the business you are supporting. I may not be an artisan, but I do know the value and how much it means to someone when their small business is supported.
At Greenmarket Square in Cape Town, there are lines of vendors. It is a beautiful site to see between the paintings, wood carvings, beading, clothes, etc. Everyone wants you to buy from them, so if you go, be prepared to be approached. Also be prepared to barter. You do not have to, but know that prices are set high with the expectation that you will.
My favorite part about my time in Greenmarket Square was talking to the locals. I bought three beaded necklaces, about twenty beaded Christmas ornaments, and a few wired- or beaded animals from a stand that was owned and run by a mother, and her two daughters, and their daughters. These ladies were so excited that I was asking about their work and they were eager to show me how it is they create the beaded necklaces and animals. Just as they continue to pass this trade down from generation to generation, they took me step-by-step through the process.
I will never forget the hug one of the women gave me when I made my purchases and brought my friends over to do the same. She thanked me by giving me an angel Christmas ornament and called me her friend. I know I will probably never see her again, but I do know that I will never forget her and I will cherish that ornament forever. It was a gift from the heart.
I am an avid coffee drinker as are many of my friends, so when I saw hand painted mugs, shot glasses, tea cups, dishes, etc., I had to go up to that stand. The woman I met at that stand also couldn’t wait to show me her work. Each mug is individually designed, created, molded, and hand painted by her. I learned the process takes three weeks. I bought a few mugs for friends, myself, and a beautiful teapot for my mom. Again, she was so grateful that she gave me a cute little shot glass with a hand painted elephant and gave me hug. She will also not soon be forgotten.
The paintings I purchased at Greenmarket Square are phenomenal. One is an abstract piece of an elephant and the other is of women carrying water on their heads and babies on their backs. The artist was thrilled to learn I was from the United States. He and his friend have traveled to America a few times and plan to sell some of their art in a shop in Seattle. They are so excited for the opportunity and I am excited for them. I love Seattle and hope to return one day. I hope even more that I will see his art has made it!
Another woman I bought from helped me with one of my most important purchases: a pencil. Unlike souvenir shops in the United States that typically have touristy pencils near the register, South Africa does not. My dad collects them for his office and I knew I needed to find a good one. This woman was selling unique, hand-crafted pencils that her students were making to help bring money home to their families. Another great purchase!
We spent hours in this market because it really was more than just shopping, but a chance to get to know people and their stories. One of our final purchases in the market was a suitcase because four women on a ten-day trip filled with exploring, shopping, fun, and a killer exchange rate means we were coming home with way more than we started with.
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