Meet Mariam of Bahari Deco Crafts. Mariam has been vending with us for a while now and we are a big fan of her work. She applies her textiles in many forms. This Saturday [June 15], she will have cup sleeves, device cases, bags, summer clothing for children and adults, colorful animals and hand painted handmade paper and cards.
1. Who are you, where are you from and what do you sell? How are you known at the market?
I am a seamstress. I come from East Cost Tanzania. Normally I should just say I am from Tanzania, but put that way, in relation to my business. What I sell is fashion accessories made from traditional African made fabrics – Kanga cloth is my specialty, followed by Kitenge and Kikoi ( as we call hand woven cloth).
Also, I share stories and create awareness of the Swahili culture. I think people need information from the native as opposed to information wrote by visitors on what they captured during their few days visits in the Swahili coast. I appreciate their effort, and wish to compliments and correct when possible.
At some markets I am known as the Kanga Lady and some just the Swahili Seamstress.
2. How did you get started in your business and what is your future vision?
Fenton Street was my first market to vend. Prior to that, I used to sell on consignment to a vendor who used to vend at D.C. Eastern Market. She moved away to the other state. My first products in Fenton Market were Kanga cloth, Kanga bags and some mixed handicrafts from Tanzania. Megan was among my first buyers (Kanga bag) and Laura Costas ( Kanga clothes). She is regular FSM visitor) and my regular customer and devoted motivator. That is worth mentioning for FSM Customers – most of them become vendors’ friends.
On my early days on FSM, I met Emily Morris, who worked lived and work in Tanzania for 7 years representing a non-profit organization based in WA DC, -EDC. She was very excited to see Kanga again. We ended up talking for a while, and she introduced me to Empowered Women International, then the journey with EWI begun in Spring 2012, onwards.
3. Why do you do what you do? What is so special about your business?
I chose to do this because I love art and I love Swahili culture and all that it offers. I am missing a lot of what is available there in this part of the world. Even at the Smithsonian Museum, the Swahili Coast is only place in Africa which, is either not represented or with very little representation to notice. Unfortunately, I don’t see representation in other African art, crafts and culture.
As a Swahili native, and skilled artisan I decided to do this to make a contribution, in my own small way. I have been my mother’s helper, and as an adult, I opted to resign from a white color job to work in the handicrafts field. My presence in America is an opportunity and a platform for my advancement and inclusion of the Swahili coast’s skills in the wider market.
4. What do you love most about Fenton Street Market?
What I like about Fenton Street Market its POSITION, Diversity and A Very Nice community of vendors and visitors. Last but not least, I with I could composed a song about FSM.
ALL THE BEST.