Art Arusha Arusha Art Arusha Au Revoir
Saturday, the 21st of October, 2023. The Springboks will be running onto the field in three and a half hours to beat the English in the semi-final of the RWC, and my nerves are shot.
Butch has been preparing psychologically for the game all week. He’s listened to and watched every report, video interview, social media chat, podcast, and digital sports report. He’s fit and ready to go. Unfortunately, he says he’ll be in pyjamas by the time “the manne run onto the field,” so he won’t be in his green and gold Pick ‘n Pay rugby jersey. Is that a good or bad omen? Time will tell.
We’ve had supper, the dishes are washed, and our after-dinner coffees have been brewed. I think Butch needs a stiff Whiskey to enhance his experience tonight. I shall fortify myself with a handful of Maynards Wine Gums.
I have been disappointed by the French, who have shown terrible sportsmanship by throwing their toys all week, thinking up all sorts of infantile reasons why the Springboks shouldn’t have won last week. The connipshits from the French. My eyes involuntarily roll in their sockets.
After our unprecedented highlight safari to the Serengeti and Lake Natron, it was down to earth with a bump for us. We had to return to Arusha to replace a part of our steering column and check our brakes.
We were not particularly excited by the thought. Arusha is cold, for one. Camping is not popular in Tanzania. According to iOverlander, there is only one campsite in Arusha, and the reviews are poor.
There is nothing better than some retail therapy to buoy one’s spirits, so off we went to do a spot of shopping. We love the traditional Maasai Shuka (cloth) and agreed we need one or two. The store recommended to us had a vast selection of cloths. Taking my time, I selected three. One red and black one for Butch, a bright pink and turquoise one for me (my favourite), and another in shades of blue.
We filled our fridge with Tangawezi (meaning ginger) sodas and our tanks with Diesel. Fuel prices are staggering, with no end in sight. It was just our luck that the world went beserk while we travel sending the SA Rand into a tailspin.
The colourful drive to Arusha makes up for everything, and even the campsite on the lake on the outskirts of town isn’t too bad. The staff are friendly and accommodating, which helps tremendously.
After we set up our campsite on Lake Duluti, we sip our sundowners on the deck and watch canoeists circumnavigate the lake.
After a fitful night of restless sleep, we pack up and make the schlepp to Arusha Art, the Isuzu agents.
I am determined not to spend the day in a workshop while the Honey Badger gets an overhaul. I told Butch emphatically.
Luck is on my side when I spot the Arusha Cultural Centre en-route to the Isuzu agency, Art Arusha. While we wait for the traffic light, I alight the truck with a promise to keep my phone charged so that Butch can reach and find me without a moment’s hassle or inconvenience.
My patience was rewarded. I have a morning of solitary freedom to feast my eyes and soul on art; I think as I approach the magnificent building built in the local vernacular, a large glass-encased cylindrical building mimicking traditional grass and clay huts.
The Arusha Cultural Heritage Centre is where the past and present of Tanzania’s 120-plus tribes can be viewed in a single compound. The centre boasts art in every conceivable genre and medium.
Once inside the grounds, one is infused and enthused by art. Stone and wooden carvings in various sizes depict the diverse, rich history that gave birth to the Tanzania we know today.
Shops and stalls sell and display gemstones, artefacts, clothing, and books. We acquired an embroidered T Shirt each.
The guard of honour are a set of enormous elephant tusks (imitation) that welcome guests to the centre.
Paths, walkways, and bridges lead visitors to the main building through a labyrinth of garden and outdoor art. I was early and looked forward to my solitary wander through the gallery.
There is no entrance fee.
Nothing could have prepared me for the wealth of art on display. Multiple storeys can be reached using a spiral walkway leading the visitor up onto different floors filled with art. Ceramic art, watercolours, pastels, oils, wooden carvings, bronze statues. Portraits, landscapes, wildlife, ancient and modern.
Some art is affordable, but there are very dear precious heirlooms and history on display which should be in museums. African art should stay on our shores.
Staff and curators float about silently, allowing visitors to peruse, touch, smell, and enjoy pieces as long or short as they please.
Before I knew it, I’d spent three hours there. My spirit lifted, and my heart was full. Here, one will not find art for art’s sake but the history and storytelling of a people and uninhibited, pure, unbridled talent.
Enough said; I’ll let the art and architecture speak for themselves. I’m no art critic.
On the way out, I did a bit more snooping, as one does, and there I met Aggrey Mwasha, who had been invited to be the artist at work. I was in for a treat.
This experience reminded me of my conversations with Tretchikoff in 1976 when he was a guest artist in the store I was working in. Garlicks, a department store in Cape Town. Tretchikoff had set up his easel near the escalator for the most impact, and every time I walked past, we’d say hi. At the time, I was not impressed with his “Kitch” realistic art (if only I’d known). One of our friends with her lovely haze almond-shaped eyes, olive skin, and jet-black tresses caught his eye and attention. After a bit of persuasion, she eventually sat for him. Blanche, one of my Grandmother’s friends, commissioned him to make her portrait. He captured her perfectly. Framed in an antique gold-leaf frame, she glowed nobely on their mantlepiece. Too late, I’d missed that “investment” boat!
Aggrey Mwasha is a self-taught artist born in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania who started painting using plant dyes to colour his paints at the age of ten years old.
He has participated in numerous exhibitions in Finland, the USA, and England.
In 1989, he won the World Food Day Drawing Competition and was the only Tanzanian artist invited to participate in the Second Pan Africa Cultural Festival 2009 held in Algiers. He has curated art at the Wasanii Art Center for six years at the initiative of former American and Italian ambassadors.
Aggrey paints from his studio in Dar es Salaam.
Spending time with Aggrey on the veranda was both enlightening and inspiring.
I met Butch for lunch at the Village Market, where he told me that Yash, the manager at ART Arusha, had bad news. The part he’d ordered for the Honey Badger’s steering had still not arrived, and after much prodding, he had found out that the part had “disappeared” in Dubai. Butch was at his wits’ end and decided to pull some strings with Isuzu in South Africa.
Social Media once again came to the rescue, and Butch was able to contact Hanlie Pieters a brand manager at Isuzu in Johannesburg who put us onto Hein Anandale.
Within half an hour, Hein had set up a “Honey Badger group” on WhatsApp. The part was sourced, the delivery to a trucker organised, and on Monday, three days later, the part was on a truck to Lusaka in Zambia.
Butch and I know Yash did his utmost to source the part in time and would've done an excellent job of fitting the part. He had, after all diagnosed our problem correctly. Unfortunately his supplier let him down and we had no time at our disposal to wait any longer. Yash you were a star and we're eternally grateful for everything you did and made possible for us.
This would be our last time in the Arusha area, and once we knew the part was on its way, Butch and I did some exploring on our bikes.
Our campsite, on the edge of Lake Duluti, a volcanic crater lake, was situated on the eastern edge of the east branch of the Great Rift Valley. It is located in Meru District near Tengeru and is 14 kilometres from Arusha city centre and 1.31 kilometres from the Arusha-Moshi road.
Lake Duluti is a small yet deep lake. Captivating visitors with unspoiled vegetation, subtropical forests, hiking paths, and canoe trips on the lake makes for a relaxing stay. We set off and ended our 38km ride with tea at the Arusha Serena Hotel, our treat. Every city we've visited in East Africa boasts a grand Serena Hotel.
Although the campsite needed a lot of TLC and maintenance work, we enjoyed our stay there and found the manager, Mohammed, accommodating and friendly, and his security was good.
Our three-month stint in Tanzania was running out, and we had to get to Lusaka before our part arrived. Although we’d heard all the nasty rumours surrounding the Tanzam highway, we had no choice but to tackle it.
We were more familiar with Tanzania now, and part of our journey to the border was a return journey on the same route we used when we entered from Malawi.
The colourful villagers are still irresistable to me. No matter how often I say "you've seen all this before Maricha" my trigger finger can't stop shooting the beautiful people.
We were heading into the heart of winter. The landscape had it's winter coat on. In the changing light each landscape had it's own unique appeal. The ochre earth dotted with Baobabs and ghostlike trees spoke volumes about a farmer's life on the savannas.
Once again, we treated ourselves to a marvellous stay at The Old Kisolanza Farm campsite after a coffee and chocolate brownie at the Farm coffee shop.
The fresh vegetables and frozen meat products were a draw card, and we stocked up our fridges before heading into the unknown.
Catching up with Nicki, the owner, was super. Supper was a delicious Butternut soup, T-bone steak, vegetables, chips salad, and dessert.
The journey to the border would take us another two full days of driving. This time, it was with nostalgia and for my memory bank that I took photographs of the landscape, towns, and villages, not knowing when or if we’d return.
We wild camped in a disused quarry overlooking a lake on our second night. Trucks were starting to take over the road, and traffic was more congested in villages as we neared the border.
Our border crossing was a nightmare, with hundreds of trucks waiting in long queues or parked alongside the road coming or going from Tanzania. I could feel the tension building up as we stopped and started threading our way through heavy-laden 18-wheelers (or more), tuk-tuks, motorbikes, motorcars, and bicycles en route through abysmal border towns.
The communal border post–Tunduma–Nakonde was a traumatic nightmare I’d rather forget, almost spoiling our stay in Zambia and jeopardising our plans to visit Rwanda, Kenya, and Uganda as we scaled the one hurdle after the next.
Butch writes the following report regarding this most unfortunate incident. I can’t do it succinctly enough.
“My recollection of the Tunduma/Nakonde border crossing from Tanzania into Zambia. Was probably my most unpleasant border experience ever, so much so that I will do whatever I can to avoid it if at all possible.
It all stemmed from my own misconceived belief that a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) for Tanzania was unnecessary since I had a Carnet de Passage (CdP). One that specifically covered that country. Secondly, the agent I had used when entering Tanzania in May need not have obtained a TIP. Lastly, he had erred in only getting it for a 30-day period when all our other papers were for 90 days as stamped in our passports. We had insisted on a 90 day clearance.
Let me also point out that the Tunduma border is probably the most chaotic one I have experienced on our journey. The last 5 or 6 kilometres before the border is inundated with hundreds, if not thousands, of large trucks, all en-route to Zambia or further in all directions.
On the advice of a good friend who had passed that way a few weeks earlier, I obtained the services of an agent to assist with the whole border procedure, and I’m glad I did, as I don’t know how we would have found the various desks and offices involved.
The immigration part went well, and he took the relevant vehicle papers, including the TIP and CdP, plus about 200 USD, which he had called for, and said we must move the vehicle forward and wait for him, which we did.
After what felt like ages, he returned and said there was a problem with a document, which I had never even seen before, issued by some Zambian official that day, with the words “single entry” written on it. There was a fine payable of something in the order of 500 USD.
I explained that I had never seen that document. It had only just been issued and was correct as I only intended to enter Zambia once. I saw the agent slip something under a book on the official’s desk, and he told me to wait outside., which I did.
While I was there, I saw an official in a uniform giving me the once over and looking at the Badger. The agent eventually came out and said there was a problem with the TIP, as I had not left the country by the 19th of June, which was the date written on the TIP. It was now the 14th of August, and there was a 7000 USD fine payable.
I nearly had an apoplexy and pointed out the completed CDP, and that no one had suffered any loss and that I would/could not pay that sort of money.
The agent then chipped in and said, “Not to worry,” he would negotiate to sort it out for about 200 USD. I then went to the truck, dug out 150 USD, and gave it to the agent. At that point, the uniformed official arrived at the truck and said he wanted to inspect the interior.
He’d spotted me handing something to the agent. After his inspection, he asked me, out of earshot of the agent, how much I had given him. I told him.
Not very long after that, the agent arrived with my CdP duly completed and said all was fine and we could go after paying a hefty fee in USD.
I honestly think the agent and the two officials in that office were in cahoots. I don’t know how they fixed the TIP problem.
This incident gave me weeks of anxious, sleepless nights, which were only alleviated when an amiable businessman whom I had met in Dar es Salaam managed to ascertain that it was on record that the Badger had left Tanzania on the 23rd of June 2023, which is entirely untrue.
I was fearful that upon our re-entry into Tanzania, records would show that we had transgressed with the TIP, and the authorities would impound the vehicle.
You can imagine my relief when we did re-enter at a tiny border post without any hassles.
I always look for a positive lesson when going through such an unpleasant nightmare: I will never let an agent take my documents and deal with them if I am not always present. Let’s hope that by so doing, I will not go through such unpleasantness again. Time will tell.” Butch.
As if that wasn’t enough, our first experiences in Zambia proved to be catastrophic. The main road in Nakonde (on the Zambian side of the border) was being upgraded. The entire main road was a vast, churned-up dirt road under construction. Trucks waiting to cross into Tanzania were lined up for kilometers on the side of the road. Earth moving equipment, graders, digger loaders, and tipper trucks were also in the mix. It was lunchtime, and no sign of anyone doing any work.
While I drew money at the ATM, Butch went off to buy and register a SIM card at the MTN branch across the road.
As it happened, the ATM was being restocked, and I was waiting with other clients and bank employees on lunch. We chatted amiably whiling away thirty minutes. Much to my surprise, they allowed me to jump the queue. With my wallet bulging, I returned to the truck to wait for Butch, who was still being processed for his SIM card.
A loud knock on my window startled me, but I relaxed when I noticed the police officer’s broad smile. I wound down my window. “You’ve been clamped,” the officer informed me without preamble.
“You’re not allowed to park here.” She continued pointing her long red-gelled talons at me, ignoring my apparent consternation.
Although friendly, she would not budge when I asked her where the no parking sign was, nor could she suggest alternate parking. I pointed out the dozens of trucks lining the street. She ignored that, doing a shoulder shuffle of denial. She was adamant that I speak to the chief of police, who was waiting, arms folded on the steps of the charge office—a small officious man with an attitude.
The thought that this was a common occurrence did occur to me as I observed the five traffic officers watching me approach where they sat, twittering outside their makeshift mobile office (in fact, it looked more like a portable loo than an office)
The chief of police, as he was referred to, quickly escorted me into his office and closed the door. I was not comfortable, but knowing that four officers were playing cards or perusing their phones in the “charge office” was a reassurance.
The chief proceeded to whip out a two-page stapled list of traffic offences dated 2018, with the relevant fines attached and pointed to “Parking in a restricted, no parking area” with the amount of 4000 Zambian Kwacha (R3500).
My jaw dropped, and a tear trickled down my flushed dust bedecked cheeks. I’d had enough I thought dabbing at rivulets of mud dripping from my jawline. I looked at him in astonishment. He must’ve gotten the message and reduced, or rather, negotiated better terms to “suit us both”. R250 to him and R1250 to the municipality. Still a bribe I thought sniffing loudly.
At times like these, I want to ask about honesty vs corruption but hold my tongue as it would probably land me behind bars or worse. I agreed, of course, but, in a last moral stand, demanded a receipt.
He agreed. The ordeal was not over yet. Accompanying me, I had to pay the fine in cash into an unknown bank account at a shop a few yards from the MTN office and, with that proof of payment, go into a warren of alleyways and small buildings to a “municipal office” stuck on top of a pile of red earth, in a wobbly shack for a written, triplicate carbon copy receipt.
My fury and loathing of the man, who was now holier than thou, his forced jocularity increasing by the minute, and I couldn’t wait to ditch him.
The clamps were removed, I moved the truck a mere 50 paces from our original parking spot, behind a pile-up of vehicles being valeted and waited another two and a half hours for Butch.
The look on Butch’s face told a million frustrating stories. The clueless MTN agent had botched his application and had to redo the whole laborious exercise. He huffed and puffed and was clearly at the end of his tether.
We have since learned that the clamping of tyres in Zambia is a common practice by “private operators,” and MTN is not our favourite communications operator. However, we’ve just subscribed to them again in Rwanda!
The clutch of uniformed traffic officials waved us goodbye like old lost friends.
I am constantly reminded of this quote when it comes to bribery. “The man who offers a bribe gives away a little of his importance; the bribe, once accepted, he becomes the inferior, like a man who has paid for a woman.” I felt tainted and furious with disappointment. Would this be our experience and memory of Zambia?
Not only did the Springboks win the game last Saturday, but they made headlines with a false accusation that Bongi allegedly made regarding an English player. Unbelievable. Fortunately, I have just read that justice has prevailed, and he has been found not guilty on all charges. I hope the damage done will not reflect on their game on Saturday when they square up to win their fourth RWC game. Time will tell.