What is it about shoes?

People walk a lot in Maputo, mainly because public transport (small chapa buses) are overcrowded and infrequent – I’ve seen people being lifted up and shoved through the window bum first! Taxis and tuk tuks are expensive. You see some people walking barefoot, otherwise most wear rubber flip flops – everyone’s favourite.

Thank god for flip flops

Even patriotic flip flops!

Other people (men) wear fashionable leather shoes, kept highly polished by the shoe shiners who have their street stands mainly around the main commercial and office areas.

'Big man' gets a polish up

Some women (usually in the same area of town) wear impossibly high heels, and somehow manage not to break their necks in all the holes and lumpy areas on the pavements where water pipes, road works and tree roots create havoc.

Don these if you dare!

Some shoemakers fashion creative designs out of old car tyres – guaranteed to last – and not just the heavy clodhoppers you might expect. Colourful sandals with rubber tyre soles are made out of printed cotton cloth in craft workshops.

Elegant sandals made of car tyre rubber

Car tyre soles but trendy cotton 'uppers'

There are also expensive shoe shops for the minority who can afford such. One wonders who can when most people earn so little.

So much for new shoes.

Cobblers are everywhere, and they can restore long life to shoes or sandals (even flip flops) you might have thought were finished.

Friendly repairs while you wait

Some disabled people and elderly men are cobblers, and ply their mobile workshops at different spots in town.

This cobbler also sells DVDs

Mobile cobbler's workshop

There are also second hand shoes on sale, displayed on the streets in different ways – usually spaced out under the trees, where you have to take care  not to tread on them (especially after dark) as you pick your way along the pavements among the rubble, stalls and parked cars. These range from trendy trainers, gladiator sandals and hiking boots, to glittery plastic and velvet flatties, formal high heels and everything else you can think of.

Lots of choice and all a bargain!

Hey amiga, this one's just right for you! (NB Arsenal shirt)

Some shoe vendors ‘multi-task’ and operate other trades at the same time, selling cigarettes, sweets, gum, mobile phone credit. They even abandon their shoes on street corners as they go about their other business. But there’s always someone keeping an eye.

Gone to lunch!

Mobile phone credit also on sale

Why are there so many shoe selling spots? Are there shoe fetishists here? I haven’t been here long enough to know, but I’m working on this question. Sales do not look that brisk according to my own (brief) observations. What kind of livelihood can this be? The answers might be revealed in due course of time… patience… it’s all part of the fabric of street life here and is doubtless highly complex.

At a live concert recently the audience went wild when Wazimbo came on stage – yelling, jumping up and down, waving their arms, singing along.  He’s one of Mozambique’s best loved singers.  The adulation and noise doubled when he started to sing a song called ‘Zapatero’ (shoe maker)!  Now I wonder why that was?

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3 Responses to What is it about shoes?

  1. Agnès - says:

    Well shoes should be as cars in Maputo : valuable accessories that put you one step ahead once you can afford it.

    I remember the time when we got as children our two pairs of shoes for school and for Sundays and family occasions.

    Now shoes are just on sale at a bargain price everywhere, I mean, in Belgium wherever in the past, buying a pair of shoes was a whole ceremony in itself… rituals and specialty shops…

    Time goes by : now textile and shoes industry are global with any community of people wearing similar baskets, tongs, plastic imitations manufactured by the thousands by Asian machines instead of being carefully handicrafted by some leather local European facility.

    I recently started to walk barefoot in Brussels streets from time to time when I feel my feet tired by my shoes temperature or pressure and I noticed that nobody is noticing…

  2. Jo says:

    I agree with Kathleen, those cotton/tyre numbers are fantastic.

  3. Kirsteen says:

    Pru, you could start an export business in those trendy rubber tyre numbers with the cotton top. I could do with a pair to save my feet from the hard pavements here. (could be a touch chilly for winter tho)

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