Friday, October 29, 2010

Our Uganda Friday: 29 October 2010

by Hanna Schwing

Last Friday, Darlyne mentioned Donald Wasswa's Seventh Sense art exhibit at Emin Pasha, a popular boutique hotel in Kampala. On Thursday evening, I brought my new housemate to see the Healing Art performance, a continuation of the exhibit. Wasswa's colorful paintings of surreal dreamscapes depicting fanciful trees and wild animals were presented with soothing vocal and acoustic guitar performances by Tamba and Michael Ouma. Also on display were the Wazbees, colorfully painted simplified carvings of wild animals created by Donald Wasswa and Sarah Bernabe. While people mingled and sipped on mild complimentary cocktails, Chef Shaun Christian and Wasswa helped cook small bites for the guests. The Seventh Sense art exhibit and Healing Art performance made for a completely relaxed but stimulating experience.

And Wasswa's art is amazing. See for yourself:

This painting is about six feet tall and ten feet long.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New Omusana Yoga Mat Bags en route to US!

Salute the sun in style with our new omusana yoga mat bag! This bag is top-loading with a draw-string tie and has a handy interior pocket to store your keys, phone and other valueables! 29” long and 7” in diameter, this bag fits all types of mats and even has room for a towel! The strap is 32” long running the length of the bag.

Wash in cold water with like colors; air dry.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Our Uganda Friday: October 22nd 2010

by Darlyne Komukama.

This season appears to be one for culture in Kampala because there are so many interesting and wonderful things going on. I was lucky to attend some of the events.

Cooking Oil is a play written by Ugandan playwright Deborah Asiimwe who recently won the 2010 BBC African Performance Playwriting Competition. The play explores the impact of foreign aid on the developing nations that receive it by looking at a nucleus community where donated cooking oil is being sold illegally by Maria, the protagonist. The play did a good job of asking questions from all angles of the aid spectrum and is a very interesting watch that will have you thinking about it long after the curtain has gone down. The last showing is this weekend at 2.30pm and 7.00pm. Watch it if you get a chance. I also reviewed the play for the local paper here.

Salif Keita is an amazing musician and when he came to Kampala for a live performance, there was no way I was going to miss it and I am not disappointed I got to see him. The show was electrifying and Keita's songs had the crowd on their feet from the moment he stepped on the stage. He was here raising awareness on the plight of albinos in East Africa and if anyone needs proof that this condition is not a disability, Keita is the embodiment of it.

The Uganda National Contemporary Ballet is a company headed by French native Valerie Miquel and they're pretty good. This particular performance has a social message that Valerie got from a former child soldier who told her, "Go and tell the world my story so that no other children have to become child soldiers." The ballet was broken down into different segments about living in the war and losing their childhood and finally being assimilated back into civil society when they can't forget the atrocities. My favourite segment was the portrayal of the nightmares which was eerily lighted and actually quite disturbing. The UNCB can be seen again on November 17th in another production at the National Theatre.

Yesterday, the Boss Lady and I went to the Emin Pasha hotel to catch the opening of the Seventh Sense art exhibition by Ugandan artist Donald Wasswa. Wasswa is very gifted and his various art pieces inspired by the wild feature heavily elephants, giraffes, gorillas and buffaloes. They are airy and light and beautiful. He has also, ingeniously, started printing little greeting cards with pictures of his paintings on them that allow art lovers who can't afford an original painting to still enjoy the beauty.

And with that, we at Awava wish you a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Awava @ University of Kansas Fair Trade Holiday Sale!

Awava is so excited to be present again this year at the 19th annual Fair Trade Holiday Sale at the ECM!

Visit us November 26th through December 5th at the ECM (1204 Oread on campus.

We have loads of new goodies this year making it possible to find that perfect, fairly traded, holiday gift for everyone you know!

For a sneak peak, check our our website!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Awava @ Kansas State University Fair Trade Marketplace!

It's that exciting time of year again and we're kicking off the pre-holiday excitement with the Kansas State University Fair Trade Marketplace on November 17th and 18th in Manhattan Kansas! If you've attended the past three years you've seen and likely purchased some of our beautiful products! We have lots of new stuff to bring you this year! For a sneak peak check out!

Hope to see you there!

Awava @ International Women's Association Market Day Sale!

Join Awava at the International Women's Association Market Day Sale at booth number 16!

This will be the PERFECT time to pick up some amazing fairly traded goodies for the holidays (with plenty of time to ship overseas if need be) made by the amazing artisans which Awava works with here in Uganda!

For a sneak peak, check out our website at! And don't worry, the prices on our site are not comparable to the prices at the sale!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Our Uganda Friday: 15 October 2010

by Hanna Schwing

If you follow the Awava blog, you know how busy the team was in Gulu this week. Our happy for the week, that which made all of the work worth it, came on Wednesday evening when everything fell into place.

Our goals for Wednesday all involved setting Lucy and the tailors up in a new shop because the Gulu market was scheduled to be demolished in September. Then it was pushed back to October. Now it's scheduled for sometime after elections which are scheduled for sometime in the first months of the new year. Politicians don't really want to be responsible for hundreds of market vendors losing their workspace a few months before elections. A few months after elections is fine though.

Here is a partial list of our goals:
- Have an electrician visit Lucy's new shop to install four new electrical outlets and two more lights. (There was one light extremely high and in the middle of the ceiling and one electrical outlet.)
- Finish a sandwich board to advertise the new location.
- Count the products that the tailors had completed.
- Start moving things into the new store.
- Be awesome. (Darlyne added this one to the list.)

After a quick breakfast and coffee to fuel the day ahead, we set out to accomplish our goals. First, we stopped by Lucy's new store to drop off the two pieces of the sandwich board--5 foot by 2 foot pieces of wood that Darlyne and I painted white the night before. Then, we went to the tailoring stall in the market, where we learned that on Tuesday night Lucy lost the purse that contained her phone and all of her keys--including the only key to her new shop. That meant that we needed to find a locksmith before we could have an electrician come to the store.

We arranged for the carpenter, Nelson, to come to the shop, and I went to meet him there and start painting the sandwich board. After I put down my paints, the first thing I noticed was that one of Lucy's windows had been knocked out in the hour since we had dropped off the pieces of the sandwich board, and the edge of the sidewalk was broken. The landlady told us that a truck had driven over the sidewalk and into the glass, but the driver agreed to pay for the glass to be replaced. Just lovely. We assumed it would be at least a week before the window was repaired.

Frustrated by the complications of the day, I started taping my handmade stencils to the sign in preparation to paint it. In the meantime, the locksmith showed up with Nelson. I borrowed a screwdriver to open the paints. After a significant struggle, the cans were open, revealing... a surprisingly liquid paint. Nothing like the acrylic paints I am used to. I cringed but kept going. I loaded my paint brush--just enough for acrylic paint, but far too much for oil paint. Needless to say, that plan failed. We decided to call a professional painter. I went to return the two unused paints, but was refused a refund because they had been opened. In the meantime, Nelson and his friend opened the door to the new store and installed a new lock.

My hands covered with dry oil paint, the Awava team took our lunch break. After being accosted by a mentally ill homeless man who seemed to really enjoy yelling, we finished our lunch. Darlyne and Kate went to the market stall to count products, and I went to meet the painter. On my way, I stopped by the supermarket we frequent in Gulu to make a small purchase. I didn't have any small money, and I was short 200 shillings (about 10 cents). The cashier smiled and said we'd sort out the change later.

I paused. I stared at him like he'd just turned into a giant green bug and offered to give me a free hair cut.

Something nice? Good luck? What was happening?

I smiled and walked out of the store, a bit scared of what would go wrong next.

When the painter appeared at the store, he said the stencils were good, gave us a fantastic price and said the sign could be done in an hour. I paused before agreeing, still reluctant to accept good news. We carried the sign to his shop, and on the way I saw Kate, Darlyne and the tailors carrying Awava products back to the hotel. They had finished counting! Goal #1 accomplished! The painters started on the sign. Everything was going well, so I said I would return in a few minutes and went to meet Kate and Darlyne at the new store.

Cheerfully walking to the shop, I found Kate and Darlyne while they were on the way to the supermarket to buy juice for the Awava team and the tailors. They had finished moving things for the day. Goal #2 accomplished! We sat at the new store for a while with the tailors, drinking juice, seeing how well we could operate the manual sewing machines and taking photos of the new space.

The electricians showed up, installed the extra four electrical outlets, and started attempting to add lights to the space. Goal #3 (half) accomplished! Unfortunately, there wasn't a sufficient ladder to reach the ceiling. They tried putting this together:

After attempting to use sewing machines to prop up the two ladders, Kate finally stopped them. We managed to convince them that there was another way to install the lights and their lives were more valuable than saving a few feet of wire. Everyone had a little laugh over that. Disaster averted, Darlyne and I joined Rosemary on her way back to the market and stopped at the sign painting shop. After they finished, Darlyne and I picked up the sign and returned to the store. Goal #4 accomplished!

Lucy seemed to love the sign. We all felt giddy. We had actually accomplished everything we set out to do. We sat in front of the fan and thanked each other for the hard work and looked around at the beautiful new shop, feeling ecstatic. There may have been tears of joy.

We had turned this space...:

...into this space:

We completely rocked Wednesday and dragged it back from the brink of horrible. Goal #5 accomplished!

When we go back to Gulu in November, we're having a grand opening for the store. Lucy's priest is going to bless the shop, I'm going to bake a cake, and we're going to give the artisans their business skills training certificates. I can't wait to see the final outcome of all of our work and celebrate with the ladies!

Meet our Newest Tailor: Auma Concy!

Auma Concy is the newest addition to our amazing tailoring team in Gulu! Concy is still in the training process with Lucy with one month left to go. At the age of twenty-four, Concy cares for her six-year-old daughter, Winifred, as well as three orphaned relatives with the help of her husband Denis.

Due to the lack of money for school fees, Concy was not able to attend secondary school, stopping her formal education after Primary 7 in 2003. Her husband was able to support her through six months of tailoring school in 2009 to lay the basic foundation of her knowledge of tailoring. Lucy is now working with Concy to strengthen those skills and it shows in the work she has done in her first 2 months with Lucy and Awava!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Day 2 in Gulu: Rain, wood and busy, busy, busy.

by Darlyne Komukama

It's only 9.30pm on a Tuesday night but it feels like 2am on a Friday night because of how busy these past days have been at Awava. Now, I am not complaining, we love being busy and since I joined on October 4th, that is exactly what we have been. If you've been a regular reader of the blog, then you know of our awesome new partnership with UFF and that the tailors in Gulu got a new space. This all came to a head this week, when we headed to Gulu to help the tailors move into the new space and also start on the huge order we got from UFF.

Read Kate's blog on our trip here on Monday to catch up then come back here for ...continued.

So this morning, we wake up bright and early ready to get at 'em and it starts raining. And it rains and it rains and it rains for most of the morning. That didn't stop us, we made ourselves useful in our hotel rooms with Kate and I nailing and screwing hooks into the boards we intend to display the paper bead jewellry on and Hannah working on the stencil for the sign.

We found out that hammering at the screws when they got too tight to screw in helped. Mind you, we were using our hands because our benevolent leader (read Kate) forgot to carry her pliers from Kampala. :)

Just one of the poses that Hannah experimented with to keep her hand from cramping which is pretty hard when using a box cutter to cut tiny shapes into manila. She did an excellent job though and the stencil is now done and ready to be painted on the sign. Yay Hannah!

As soon as the rain stopped, we employed ourselves outside. I went to check on the wood for the sign and only one side of it was ready but I was assured that the other side would be ready by 5pm, I like Nelson, the guy who does the wood and left him to it. We moved the new jewellery display board to the new space and moved most of the materials we brought from Kampala there too. The new space looks really nice and we are all excited about how it will turn out.

We then went to the market so we could place the new order and also let Kate talk to Lucy about it.
Rosemary working on the 'Ekibegabega' small handbags. It is amazing watching these ladies turn some ordinary sponge and fabric into the beauties that are our products.

Notice my awesome Awava bag (shameless self-plugging) and yay! my peace sign.

Lovely Lucy who is really one of the most capable people I have ever met. She's amazing (in the words of the Boss Lady, as I sometimes like to refer to Kate.)

Consy and Walter hard at work in the market stall. We can't wait to see all these guys in the new bigger space.

Esther cutting the foam into manageable, workable pieces.

Hannah and I taking down the details of the order fabric by fabric.

Concy, the new tailor, being given a survey by me, the new employee. It was fun, we bonded over our shared novelty.

See? I even got her to join me in my quest for world peace.

Lucy gives Concy on-the-job training.

We eventually left the ladies to work and went to pick up the pieces of wood for the sign which were ready and also leave an order for shelves, a cutting table and hanging units for the fabric all which should be in the new space by the end of the week (fingers crossed.)

I am really glad I got to join Awava at this, which is obviously a, turning point in the company. I am so excited about the possibilities and the orders that are pouring in from you guys. You keep us busy and we love it.

Much love.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Plaster, Paint and Wood....and a wee bit of fun!

by: Kate von Achen

We are in Gulu! After a minor delay this morning by the wonderful Kampala police (Hanna got harassed a bit on the way to my house), we had officially made it out of the Bwaise jam set out on the long road to Gulu.

Motivated by the sounds of New Order, Neko Case, Manu Chau, Minus Story and Lady Gaga, we reached our destination in four hours, only being stopped by police once on the way. The officer said I was speeding but he had no speed gun to tell me how fast I was going so we were on our merry way in under five minutes. Sometimes my stubbornness pays off.

Ravenous, we stopped at the Coffee Hut first. Their performance today was less than stellar which was disappointing but it’s still the best mzungu place in town!

Because I’m a huge fan of multitasking, we had some of the new signage laminated in the stationary shop opposite Coffee Hut while waiting (and waiting, and waiting) for our food. It was fantastic until Hanna realized we hadn’t signed the participation certificates for the August business skills training we did with the artisans before laminating. Argh! So we’re going to seek out a permanent marker and see how that does, or go back, print and bring them back in November. We had decided that part of the completion of the training would be to show 1-2 months worth of book keeping before they received these awards. Now it may be 3 months….oops!

After realizing my mistake, we headed over to the new shop that the tailors will be moving into tomorrow (inshallah). The floor was supposed to be plastered Friday, and then Saturday, and the today, and at 3:30pm there was still no one there working. Excellent. So they sent someone to fetch the person who was supposed to be doing the work. I was too afraid to return this evening to check. But hopefully we can move in to the new shop tomorrow!

Mildly defeated, we proceeded to Hotel Kakanyero, one of my Gulu homes. Up to the Universe floor we climbed with Hanna and Darlyne in “Earth” and me in “Venus”. We took 30 minutes to freshen up and unpack a bit and then headed for the market to see the wonderful tailors! There were hugs and greetings all around and any worries I have ever had melted away as they always do when I step into that cramped and chaotic stall. I love it there. It may be among my favorite places in this world.

We introduced Darlyne to the ladies (and Walter, Lucy’s orphaned nephew who just completed Senior 6 and is tailoring in a room full of women) and then sent her with Walter on a quest for wood for our new signs!

Hanna and I hung out in the market and I talked with Lucy about training tailors for United Future Foundation in Mpigi District. She seems to be up to the challenge! Success! Clearly we will be discussing more details tomorrow, but so far so good.

We talked with the tailors about the new space, all of us excited about how to set it up, where to put extra electrical outlets, and of course there was a lot of excitement when I agreed to buy a fan for the store. Esther said, “you really love us!” and I said “how could I not?!”. So tomorrow, I will be spending $30 on a fan that I truly hope works better than its appearance suggests…

We left the women around 6pm so that they could go home and we had wood to paint! We’re making a large sandwich board sign to put in the street (that is being assembled by a carpenter and will be picked and painted tomorrow) and then making a big display rack for Konye Keni’s beautiful paper bead jewelry to sell from the shop.

We have a very long and busy day ahead of us so it is time to let the hum of the power generator lull me to sleep and dream of waking in a Gulu with power!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Our Uganda Friday: October 8th 2010

by Darlyne Komukama

I'll start by saying I'm very excited to be a part of the Awava team (big tings a gwan). That said, it has been an interesting week in Kampala. Starting with a very different kind of comedy show.

On Thursday night, we were graced with the prescence of comedy writer and performer Jane Busssman who was presenting her award-winning comedy show 'Bussman's Holiday' at the Red Chilli which is where she stayed the first time she was in Uganda. I have to say, I had trepidations going into this show, I was worried she would offend my Ugandan sensibilities but I was wrong because she was hilarious! Seriously, anyone who implores not to confuse Joseph Kony with Dave Chapelle dressed as Rick James is o.k in my books.

Kampala Amateur Dramatic Society (KADS) organised an very exciting murder mystery event that is taking place this weekend. I went on Thursday and again I didn't know exactly what to expect. I was exhausted after a day of fabric shopping for Awava so I was not prepared to do too much other than eat my dinner and figure out the crime. The whole evening was very well executed, the actors were very good, the food was excellent and our brains sure were exercised trying to piece together all the clues and figure out whoddunit. If you're in Kampala this weekend, you should go check it out, totally worth the 35k.

We at Awava wish you all a very happy Independence day tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Meet Darlyne Komukama, Awava's Newest Team Member!

Darlyne Komukama is the newest addition to the Awava team!

Darlyne hit the ground running this week working on various tasks from hardware, meeting one of our artisan groups, and today she will even have her first experience (with Awava) fabric shopping! Her positive attitude and eagerness to get things done is exactly what Awava looks for and we seem to have hit the jackpot!

Darlyne has a BA in Organisational Studies from the prestigious Makerere University but does not believe that her academic qualifications should or do define her. She has had a varied career including but not limited to: construction, events planning, telecommunication, mobile money and modeling.

Darlyne had the desire to do something more meaningful with her life and believes that Awava is the perfect vehicle for this. She was born and raised in Uganda and understands how important fair trade is to the women of her home.

These are quite possibly the only photos where she won't be seen flashing a 'peace' sign.