Arusha Tanzania 2006 Day 7
Z's got a fever, so that's not good. He's running around in a diaper, trying to keep cool, while we're plying him with the occasional Baby Tylenol and lots of water. It's never good when baby's sick, less so when you're as far from home as physically possible. But, we're also in a house full of women who have collectively raised 11 children, so we've got support.
We went to the Arusha "Cultural Heritage Center" today. The parents loved it, and it was very kind of my sister-in-law to take us there, but I personally found it profoundly sad. I expected a museum, but instead found a giant mall of carvings and local art, literally jammed to the rafters, and run by a group of local Indians. They are Ethnic Indian Tanzanians who've been there for a few generations, but they've turned this Cultural Center into a artist clearing house and consignment center. The artists leave their art at the center and when it's sold they are paid a percentage, usually around 30%. For a painting that would ordinarily be less than 30,000 tsh (Tanzanian Shillings, about USD$25) this center wanted USD$120, and happily asked for it in U.S. Dollars. I'm sure I could have negotiated them down to $50 or so, but it's the principle of the thing that bugs me.
The first words out of their mouths after a greeting was "we offer DHL shipping." Why would I come all this way, only to point at a piece of art and have it shipped home? This appears, to me, to largely be the case with African Art. It's been completely commoditized and globalized. The artist is forced to create for the lowest bidder and his art is shoved in a glorified storage area with every other local artist. I appreciate the Indians' ingenuity and business savvy, but the general presentation and hyper-commercialization left a bad taste in my mouth.
One other thing, we were at a bus depot today, picking up my niece who was coming back from boarding school in Nairobi, and there was a German guy with a camera taking pictures of a particularly attractive local woman whose hair had been freshly braided. I found it very rude of him, as he was furtively sneaking photos of her. Everyone but she knew he was doing it, and it started to be creepy. He should have just asked, and perhaps offered her a sitting fee. In this case, he was a creepy white guy far from home making everyone uncomfortable and giving foreigners a bad name. Maybe I'm hyper-sensitive, but that's how I saw it.
Oh, one other thing. My Video iPod so freaking rocks. I'm loving this thing. I loaded it up with TV shows and Movies from iTunes before we left, and we've been enjoying it, hooked up to the TV here. The iPod supports NTSC and PAL (the non-US TV standard) and works great here. It's like a portable Tivo, and everyone's getting it a kick out of the photo slideshows of the baby growing up. I brought my PSP also, but even though the screen is great, the iPod is getting more use. I'll post a detailed comparison later of the PSP and Video iPod now that I've used both all over the world.