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