Friday, April 8, 2011

Clothes and Coke.

When you're in Africa, the West really isn't far away- particularly when it comes to clothes.  Clothes and Coke. 

Open air markets are full of clothes from the West.  It's funny to see the variety of slogans, advertisements, logos and the like on T-shirts, shoes and hats- not to mention all the designer labels. 

There I was in the middle of Africa, and a new friend next to me was wearing a bright red shirt advertising a fish fry in Arkansas.  Or, catching the sight of a child wearing a GAP sweatshirt that no doubt was probably made in Indonesia, shipped to somewhere exotic like Oregon, sold for $28.00, was used, donated, then eventually shipped to Zambia and ended up with that little guy up there.  Get what I mean? 

Anyway- I've seen things like this in other countries before, but, it just seemed to stick out to me more in Africa.  This book reminded me to look in to it. 

It's called Salaula.  People donate stuff to Goodwill.  Goodwill doesn't have room/need for all it receives- or- it can't sell what it has, so Goodwill sells the clothes to another middleman, who bundles them in a lot, and ships that lot to Africa (and other parts of the world), where more middle men get involved, and eventually, it ends up on a flat in a muddy market, providing a variety of inexpensive clothing to anyone ready to sort and dig- and part with some kwacha.

It's a complicated thing- you can follow the link below for more on that.
Here is the catch- countries like Zambia and Uganda had, at one time, thriving textile industries.  These used and very inexpensive clothes eliminate the demand for clothing production in-country.

Now that I was curious about it, I found this article. Michael Durham, a journalist from the UK, followed one single blouse from a bin in England to the city of Chipata, Zambia.

It's Friday.  I should cut to the chase.  All I REALLY want to say is,
The world is flat.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

The t-shirts are bizarre, aren't they? I like the ones that say something like, "My parents went to Myrtle Beach and all I got was this lousy t-shirt," knowing good and well that their parents have probably never left their village, much less been to Myrtle Beach, and that they are probably pretty grateful for that "lousy" t-shirt. The sad part is that some of the stuff that is sold in the market was actually donated, then the governments turn around and sell them to a middleman, who hikes up the price and sells it in the market. In Sierra Leone, in the 80s, we would see people selling rice by the cupful out of crates that were stamped, "donated by the U.S.A."