We live in a road named Patrice Lumumba. Like most roads in central Maputo it is named after a political hero. Lumumba was an anti-colonial leader in Africa and the first legally elected Prime Minister of the new Republic of Congo after he helped to win its independence from Belgium in June 1960. Only ten weeks later, Lumumba’s government was deposed in coup. He was subsequently imprisoned and murdered in controversial circumstances. I remember the headlines in the papers in Iceland when that happened. Well, our road crosses Av. Vladimir Lenin, and is parallell to Av. Ho Chi Min and the names are of the same gender. But I want to tell about Abdullah and his sandals.

Up the road on the left hand side, under some steps sits a shoemaker every day working. I became curious about what he is up to and found out that he makes sandals out of leather and sells them to the locals. This interested me and I decided to order a pair for me. The consumer versus producer experience was very intimate. Abdul, the sandal maker took out a writing block and drew around my foot onto it, and we discussed the size of my big toe etc (not the most beautiful in the world as Þórarinn Nevjólfsson). Then I paid him 200 Mtcs (5,5 Euro) and he told me to come next Friday afternoon. When I returned he had made these so beautiful sandals, totally hand made, both looking the same but with that hand made touch where no two things are the same. In a world of ‘experience economy’ this is worth much more than the price one pays for it here. Now, when I pass him we say hello, it is almost as we are friends and I desperately want to order an other pair, discuss with him other styles and comfort. I have already ideas about how I want my second pair to be, and do not have to browse high-street shops to see if there is something that fits my longings. Our Western Economy of mass production and global transport, sweat shops misses this intimacy and fulfillment from knowing and developing. The gap between the consumer (a person) and the producer has become so large in today’s economy that commerce has to redesign into the relationship some kind of an intimacy, like being a Nike-person or some other brand link.

I am often living a kind of a desja vue here in Maputo because what comes before my eyes reminds me so much of my home in the 60′s, where people work very hard in tough conditions with the motivation to improve life. Construction workers mix the concrete on the pavement with shovels and trasport it around in battered wheelbarrows, people are entrepreneural in creating work and commerce like Abdul, Alexander making the straw furniture; there is an other man with a sewing machine located on the pavement. He has helped me make a wind break and fixing trousers, everyone is a maker and a one man business. The pavements are good locations because then you do not have to pay rent for shop area.

If anyone wants sandals just send me a your footprint on a piece of paper. I am not number 45 there.

April 13, 2009   Posted in: DESIGN, PONDERINGS