If anyone ever wanted to kidnap me here in Uganda it would be easy, one because my hair can be spotted a kilometer away, and two, I always go to the Friday crafts market. It is one of my favorite things to do here. Thankfully, I doubt anyone would care to snatch me. And no one lets me out of their sight. I went into the dressing room while shopping with Phiona and she called me on the phone, “where are you?” I’ve been forbidden to ride a boda or allow anyone else to drive me. I am escorted everywhere by one in the front and one behind. I’d say I am safe.
Whenever I travel I always look to find an outdoor market. I am energized by the scene of people peddling their crafts, having community together and hoping to go home with enough money for a week’s worth of food. The women bring their babies, have their lunches together, there are ripples of cackling laughter to be heard, and many calls out to the red head, “you are welcome, come have a look, support me”. I try to buy from a good variety of venders rather than just one. I try to spend ten or twenty thousand shillings per person and move out of an area quickly when I’ve got enough. Surprisingly a few of the women called out to me, “Mama Tonya”. They must be affiliated with Adams and Elitia. I didn’t blame them for that association, I bought something.
There is a new store in our neighborhood in San Antonio, Evolve, that is selling our things, and the bracelets especially are moving very well. If anyone wants to purchase something from me directly I am well stocked with baskets, aprons, tote bags, necklaces, bracelets, and elastic headbands made from beautiful African fabrics. All of the money you might spend goes directly to feeding the children.
Sometimes I wish to go to the market and focus only on photography, but that would not be allowed. If I am going to take a direct photo I first must purchase something and then ask permission. They are so shy about the photos, but happy when there is money in their pocket. I think I am as happy about the photos as I am with the merchandise. The natural light and colors on this continent are unbelievably inspiring for a photographer’s eye. It makes me squeal when I see golden light rim the chocolate brown faces and intensify the hues in their fabrics and wares. I always bring a telephoto so I can sneak good shots of women unaware they are having their photo taken. Sometimes, yes, I get yelled at for taking a photo. I apologize and pay without receiving merchandise in return. Children get candy, mama’s get coins.
I imagine these strong women walking to the Friday market early in the morning with their bundle of goods on their head. They plan to stay there the whole day and I am sure they look forward to seeing their friends and avoiding their foes. To be here in Uganda means that I am with people everywhere, all the time. The streets are full of people walking everywhere, the guest house is full of adopting families, and everyone greets us with friendly welcoming faces. Of course there are problems in Uganda, highlighted in the court case I am here to be a witness, but these people have good manners and an openness to strangers. And they have a hunger to learn that hooks me every time I visit.