The Ancient Streets of Dar: Jamhuri Street.
This is Mister Simon, pronounced Si-meo-ne as in Parisian French. Mister Simon lives in Kinondoni Village and sells cake-baking ladles for a living.
Sadly, I almost got beaten up by one when I tried to take Mr. Simon’s picture one morning.
The cantekerous tradesman is known to jump and down bearing down a thunderous voice and crooked fez, when a sale goes wrong. He is known to shout unmentionables.
Mr. Simon instructed that I should first buy a couple of cake-baking ladles before he would consider. He murmured that I should pay the rates of TZ1,000 shillings for just the ladles, TZ2,000 shillings for Mr. Simon’s exclusive portrait – smiles not included – or TZ3,000 shillings (US$1) for an all-inclusive luxurious package of portrait, smiles and ladles.
He carried on grumbling in a bullying tone and made threatening gestures with his fingers…. a forbidden vocabulary learnt from a forgotten family shack where he grew up in the Zanzibar. I pointed fearfully to my wallet and he pointed angrily at his pocket. It was a case of One-Money-Click-No-Money-No-Click!
I fished out some notes from my purse and Mr. Simon tried to grab TZ5,000 from my hand.
Still, I’m not a veteran adventurer for nothing and I bravely held on to my money. I pretended that I had changed my mind and walked away. Mr. Simon begged me to come back. He used a baking spoon to wave about violently, as a white flag of surrender.
By now, a little crowd had gathered. Someone yelled that perhaps, Mister Simon had consumed too much konyagi – cheap alcohol – the night before and was still feeling rough. And that I had better be careful less I be walloped black-and-blue.
A hunchback of a snoopy Indian lady, maybe about 70 years old hobbled along and asked what the matter was. I said nothing and showed her my camera. She tut-tutted with a pompous disapproval that it was against her religion, muttered Assante in Kiswahili to thank me, bowed and scurried away.
When my zoom effect took too long to manage, Mr. Simon threatened me angrily with a ladle. He waved it up and down, almost as if he was stirring egs and flour, in the air.
However, he was soon placated. Delighted with his portrait – my nervousness made it not a very good one, I’m afraid – Mr. Simon pronounced Si-meo-ne as in Parisian French, shook my hand, patted my back and went away with his cake-baking ladles, never to be seen again for the rest of the morning. In fact, never to be seen again… at all, at all, at all!- words & photography © susan abraham, april 2012. Dar es Salaam.