Dar es Salaam is a boiling pot of the cultures of those who have settled here over the centuries. These settlers included Arabs, Indians and those from other African nations – all of whom brought their religions, cultures and culinary traditions with them.
The city’s fashion and food are testament to this fusion. You’ll see Muslim women wearing bright African fabrics and samoosas being enjoyed by everyone regardless of creed or colour.
It’s this eclecticism that inspired Ayesha Mawji to start Moyo, which means “heart” in Swahili. “I am Tanzanian and therefore very much influenced by Swahili culture, but I also have Indian heritage, which you’ll see in the styling of some of the goods you find at the store,” she explains.
There are cushions covered in loud East African fabrics, but shaped like Indian lanterns. You’ll also find small rectangular bags that are functional pieces to carry money inside or perhaps function as a doorstop. “A lot of women in Dar es Salaam have small bags they keep money in. This was to modernise that.” Mawji says, adding that miniature Baobab tree-shaped pieces are some of their best-sellers. These trees are found all over Tanzania.
Seeing a customer staring keenly at a bag, Mawji explains to her: “Those were originally Zanzibari hats. We took the idea from there, turned them upside down and made bags out of them.”
Moyo recently exhibited at the Maison et Objet, a popular decor trade fair in France. “We received quite a number of orders from local store and boutique owners over there. It’s definitely what we wanted. Those who didn’t make enquiries or orders stopped briefly and smiled and we would know we’d made a good impression on them.”
Mawji says she believes the interest was overwhelming because the goods look international even though they are clearly African.