Monday, 4 March 2013

Shamrocks and shenanigans in Uganda (updated).

Shamrocks and shenanigans, found first in Minnesota, then Kampala. Joseph looks, er, happy to pose for this pic.
What's the quirkiest piece of clothing you've seen a boda driver wearing in Uganda, or you've picked up in Uganda while being driven around by a boda? Or that you've found in any other developing country (through whatever means of transport, even legs!) where there's a booming secondhand clothes industry? 

Having recently finished reading The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz, who eleven years after giving a blue sweater to a Goodwill store in America discovers it in Rwanda, I'm always on the hunt to see what I can come up with, mostly when I'm on my daily boda trips. This probably doesn't surprise any of you, in fact some of you might say perhaps I have shopping on the brain, even in Africa  and should just do a blog entirely devoted to this.

Late last week I met Joseph, above, in Kabalagala who was wearing a green shirt which had emblazoned on the front (in tiny writing) "The Minnesota RollerGirls present" (then in larger writing) "Shamrocks & Shenanigans March 21, 2009".

Some quick research revealed that The Minnesota RollerGirls are part of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), a US national governing body for female-only, skater-owned, flat-track roller derby leagues.

"The Minnesota RollerGirls league was founded by the Donnelly sisters in August 2004 and has grown from six original members to a current roster of 80 skaters, as well as referees, coaches, and countless volunteers," according to their website.

Shamrocks & Shenanigans was the theme of the roller derby tournaments held in March 209 when Garda Belts played Rockits and Atomic Bombshells took on Dagger Dolls. 

I emailed The Minnesota RollerGirls to notify them of my discovery in Africa. I didn't think I'd ever hear back, but this morning I received this prompt, delighted response from their marketing director, Norwegian Mafia ("it's my derby name"):

"Wow! What a fun thing to find in our inbox! Yes, that shirt originated from a bout in March of 2009. At all of our bouts at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul, a different local artist creates a custom theme and artwork for the night. We print tee shirts with that art and give them out to the first 200 fans in the doors on bout night. It's so exciting to see our artwork pop up on the other side of the world! Thank you for sharing this! Our website is and we are on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Instagram, Vimeo, YouTube, and Foursquare. If you're ever in Minnesota, let us know and we'll get you some tickets."

I'll certainly take them up on that. I do have good friends, South Africans, who live in nearby Iowa and while visiting them in 2009 I also visited Minnesota. Guess where I went? (Scroll down to see the answer to this question, pretty relevant to this post. I also went to a milkshake bar in either Iowa or Minnesota which offered banana milkshakes but it was BYO banana. A bit like it's BYO boda helmets on motorbikes in Kampala).

Don't I know?! (See other pic below).

Of course Joseph, 22, most probably didn't know who The Minnesota RollerGirls when he bought the shirt at local Kawempe market for 15,000 Ugandan shillings ($5.65 USD) and most probably still doesn't know this. Nor do I think he's intentionally sporting the shirt because St Patrick's Day is coming up.
This is what I love about the secondhand clothes phenomenon in Africa - that hidden away in some dusty shack live a pair of shoes or handbag which holds great material meaning for a mzungu (white-y), but which a local is wearing just because they think it looks "smart". I once found a pair of Jimmy Choos (I'd swear on my life they were real) at Owino. The trader looked absolutely bewildered when I literally jumped up-and-down.

THIS is why we heart Uganda isn't it ? (Besides the gorillas, of course.)

Another favourite is this Edward Jones hat I discovered months ago in a metal container in Nakulabye, while Prince William was driving me home one afternoon.

Just who is Edward Jones? If you know, pray tell.

I had no idea who the hat has been produced in honour of, but heading the Google search results for Edward Jones is an investment company serving "nearly seven million investors and with more offices than any other investment firm in America", according to this website.

An editor who had lived in Senegal meanwhile recently told me that during his time in West Africa he "constantly" saw shirts "emblazoned with phrases like Vagina Monologues and Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran.

And my Twitter friend Mark, a fellow Aussie who spent a year in Malawi told me there he once spotted a chap wearing a uniform from the supermarket chain Safeway, and a dude in Gulu, northern Uganda, with an Australian Football League (AFL) Western Bulldogs scarf ("my team!")  That reminds me, early last year one of my regular taxi drivers (private hire, not boda) John picked me up wearing a Canadian Tire polo shirt. With the author of this blog being half Canadian, it was quite fitting. 

This week I'm on the prowl to see if I can top any of these bargains mentioned above (Australian sporting brands are not counted). I'm going on a looooong boda ride now, but need your help. What's the quirkiest item of clothing you've found overseas, especially those unearthed while on a boda or another form of popular transport, or which you've seen a driver wearing? Get back to me, godddamit (not just Mum).

Oh, and if you see Edward Jones, do let him know I've got his hat.


Wonder how this boy will be spending St Pat's Day?

Jeans - 30k from Kawempe.

Shoes - 35k from Kawempe.

NB: This look is only made complete with a pout.

The author of this blog with her friends in Iowa. Let it never be said she's a princess.

BYO banana in either Iowa or Minnesota.

Oh, and this is where I went - the Mall of America (MoA), in Minnesota. As if it would have been anywhere else?!

Thanks to Lucy Buck, who was the one who gave me her copy of The Blue Sweater to read and who also set up the wonderful Child's i Foundation.

Please also check out and follow the nodding syndrome account that Mark has set up here. 
Nodding syndrome is a mysterious condition killing thousands of children in northern Uganda and other parts of Africa. There's no know cause or cure.

1 comment:

  1. Have had a great response to this post on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks to all for sharing! Will have to do another one of these find-a-shirt-and-write-to-the-owner posts again soon!