Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The unique magic that is the Main Mall

I always say Gaborone Main Mall should have been called African Mall and the actual African Mall could have been given a different name, say maybe Ext 2 Mall, after the location it is in, because for me Main Mall is the epitome of what African markets and malls should be all about.

It is the only mall which, when I walk through, I feel like I really am in the mother land; it doesn’t have just a Botswana feel for me but it has an ambiance to it that makes me feel truly and proudly African.

Take a walk down Main Mall during the week at lunch hour, or even at any hour of the day, and you will see what it is that I am talking about. The women selling woven baskets on one side and, on the other side, you have men selling handmade sculptures, then there are those who take time to make beautiful mats that used to be so rich in culture but now are more sports (football) inspired.
Instead of rock paintings, you now have the Manchester United FC logo on the mat.

You walk further down and there are those people just outside FNB selling leather sandals that are so popular with traditional dancers and, at some point a few years ago, had made it as a fashion trend.

And, of course, there are those who have their little stalls under umbrellas there selling clothes, not just any clothes but clothes made from different African fabrics.

Some people exhibit their paintings and the beautifully made leather chairs that are traditionally used by men and, as I was told growing up, chairs that no woman is ever supposed to sit on.
But not to fret because in this beautiful mall there are also people selling leather mats that traditionally women sit on at home or during kgotla meetings, mats made from either goat or cow hides.

Not forgetting all those people on the street selling food, yes, stalls that serve food, not caravans or restaurants but just people under their umbrellas and some under tree shades selling food.

In this very modern place and right in the middle of town, you find things that tell a story of where we, as Batswana, come from and bring those things you long for that mostly are found in the village closer to you.

It is the only mall where you will see tourists stopping to look in awe and amazement at the different things that are being sold there. They do not go there to eat or just get out of the house but they go there to experience Gaborone and what Botswana has to offer that is African.
Of course, the mall is a loud place with all the music vendors around the place promoting local and other African musicians, but so are Africans and us as Batswana are no exception.

Just get into a taxi filled with students or even workers, you will find strangers carrying on in conversations like they have known each other for years. We are just a colourful, soulful and lively people like that and there is no changing that.

We have reached a point where we are so westernized that we have lost our signature touch in every aspect of our lives, even in our malls, but main mall still holds that authentic African feel to it and is a very convenient place to get almost all the modern services you might need. Don’t get me wrong, it is good to grow and develop but we should not lose that essence of what Botswana is all about.

You want to walk into a mall and feel it has grown but it still feels like you are home.
Main Mall for me reminds me of all the African stories that I read as a child that always mentioned a certain market place where the whole village came to meet.

For me Main Mall is the African mall incarnate, where everything is alive and soulful; it is to me a true reflection of the African personality.

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Sunday Standard May 24 – 30

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of May 24 - 30, 2020.