One thing we absolutely love about the Bazaar is the relationships we've made with our vendors. In the three years we've been doing the Bazaar, we've been lucky enough to meet some incredible businessmen and -women and get a glimpse into how their beautiful products come to be. Get to know some of the vendors whose items will be on sale at the betsy & iya Bazaar on February 24th!
Zahir, his son Jamal, and his grandson Quisar are three generations of importers originally from Pakistan. They now live in Tucson, but continue to sell products like Kilim pillowcases, wooden spice boxes, and baskets from their home country. Zahir impressed upon us that basket-making provides much-needed work for families in Pakistan.
Astou Dioum is always a joy to see. She’s been in the basket business for over 27 years, and is the only women vendor we’ve ever seen at this market. Her dream is to empower women, and the growth her business has made is incredible. When she first began, she could only provide 2-3 months of work to the people in her village in Senegal. Now, the baskets we buy bring almost year-round work to 300 women and family members. While Astou lives in New York now, her daughter lives in Senegal to get an international education and learn multiple languages. Astou hopes her daughter will take over the business one day, continuing the legacy that was passed down from her grandmother and passing it on to future generations.
This year we purchased recycled plastic baskets, rugs, and fans, as well as bangles covered in African cloth. The rugs are very important in Africa: children sleep on them, the elderly relax on them, and ladies gather on them together after cooking to socialize. They’re a beautiful, integral part of their community and we’re lucky to have a tiny part.
Bashir Tribal Rugs
Wally and Roy, a father-son duo, run this business together. Every year, they lay their rugs out on display in the parking lot and every year we fall in love with the designs. Wally has been in the rug business for over 35 years, having gotten his start from his father-in-law, a rug dealer in Afghanistan. We get Baluchi rugs, Senneh rugs, and Kilim pillows from them, all expertly crafted with beautiful detail and dyes.
(above, his assistant below)
Ebrima has been importing goods from Africa for over 20 years, traveling back to Africa every year to gather new and exciting pieces to sell in the states. This year, we got Mudcloth from Mali and the brass bracelets we love from Nigeria. Ebrima is the father of 11 children, all of whom still live in Ghana. He currently lives in the Bronx and hopes to start bringing them to the states soon. His assistant lives in Seattle and is a major soccer fan - we may have bragged a little about the Timbers!
Last year, Ebrima introduced us to Hamidou. This is Hamidou's second year at the market, and he sells these gorgeous bold baskets from Rwanda and Uganda. Most of the shapes, styles, and colors are new to us this year - we're always on the lookout for exciting things to bring back to y'all.
(Baba Berthe pictured above, Makers in Mali below)
Muso Masiri is a jewelry company in Mali. Baba Berthe is one of the company’s artists, and he sent us pictures of the makers at work in Mali. From Muso Masiri we get some fantastic recycled pieces - flip flops transformed into rubber necklaces and bronze cuffs made from recycled car radiators! (A tip from Baba: those cuffs can be shined up by dipping them in lemon juice and allowing them to dry in the sun.) We also got woven leather necklaces and beaded necklaces, and bronze and silver rings and cuffs with ebony inlay that Baba made.
John and Luke, another father-son duo, run Red Shell. They have a pawn shop in Gallup, NM where they specialize in American Indian art and spiny oyster shells. Gallup's main industry is wholesale jewelry production, and every year the town hosts the Inter-tribal Ceremonial, which draws Native American visitors in. John’s wife is Navajo and makes traditional Navajo beaded pieces with her friends - they make the beaded bracelets and hair clips we love so much. We also get turquoise jewelry from John and Luke, and many of these pieces have maker's marks on them so you can learn the names behind the art.
While we don't have a photo of Alhagi, we did bring plenty of his beautiful products back with us. We got Baoule cloth from the Ivory Coast, black and white mudcloth from Mali, vintage indigo from Burkino Faso, and woven straw fans from Ghana. A veritable treasure trove!