LOCALLY produced goods are said to lack reliable market due to one main reason: quality. However, the situation is quite different for the Zanzibar-based Cultural Art Gallery painting and brush products.
The fact, according to the owners of the gallery is that some people simply don’t like buying local goods while their priority is on imported products. That is a challenge facing the Art Gallery group, which is composed of 11 members.
Surprisingly, while locals don’t fancy their own products, foreigners show their interest in Tanzania products, especially in handicraft, something that forced the Isles Gallery members to hunt clients in tour operator commercial centers, saying there is still a long way to go in educating Tanzanians on valuing their culture.
Since the formation of the group in the 1990s, the members used to get enough clients within the Isles, but now there is a stiff competition as more and more people decided to try their luck in this business.
In an interview with the ‘Daily News’ in Dar es Salaam last weekend, head of Zanzibar Cultural Art Gallery painting and brush products Mr Othman Ally Ausiy said: “It is very rare to get a local customer.
Generally, we produce for tourists, that is why we have decided hunting them outside Zanzibar.” Sponsored by Hyatt Regency Hotel, the members were in Dar es Salaam, showcasing their products (at the hotel) whose clients are mostly foreigners, though locals too do frequent the hotel.
Their competitors are from the Mainland, still, clients are also foreigners, according to Mr Ausiy; adding: “We set centers where tourists visit us in Zanzibar but the place has been invaded by competitors especially from Dar es Salaam, so, we de cided to move out.”
The group therefore became creative in market survey through requesting sponsorship from big hotels which accommodate a good number of foreigners. The members have succeeded in acquiring permanent market at Park Hyatt Zanzibar- the sister tour institution of Dar es Salaam Hyatt Regency hotel.
“We do showcase our products every weekend at the hotel in Zanzibar, free of charge. Generally, the outcome is satisfactory as each member is able make up to 500,000/- and above per month, said the Group Head.
Last weekend was the first time for the Gallery team to show-case their products at the Dar es Salaam hotel, also free of charge. Following positive outcome they experienced in the two days of exhibition, members confirmed that now they were creating two platforms one for Zanzibar and another for the mainland.
During ‘Sunday brunch’ which is a combination of breakfast and lunch at the hotel, starting late in the morning up to early in the afternoon, the Gallery income doubled compared to the previous day; according to Mr Ausiy, adding that this is because the hotel gets full due to special rates during such events ( Sun day brunch)
Apart from income, he added, the group is also determined to promote Tanzanian culture, especially when participating in international exhibitions, said the group Head, adding: “We are not relenting when looking for more sponsors to take us far, to other countries of the world, even South Africa where art work products are considered as gold.”
Language is another hitch, according to the head of the group, saying their failure to master English language, spoken by almost every customer, was one of the challenges group members were grappling with.
It is because nobody ever attended further studies, but engaged in the business immediately after accomplishing primary school education. However, the members have been able speak the language, though partially, due to frequent mingling with foreigners who speak English.
New comers have been learning the language from their seniors. Again, seniors become tutors to new comers, according to Mr Ausiy, saying that it is easy for someone becoming an expert simply because the work is more practical.
Apart from language learning, the Gallery members requested the government to introduce art-related colleges in effort to value handicraft and promote self employment.
“We are surrounded by art and use it on a daily basis despite the fact that most people do not realize how much of a role art plays in people’s lives and just how much they depend on it in all of its forms,” commented another group members, Mr Abdulrahman Hussein Juma.
He added that there will be no need for seeking formal employment once the government accepts the request of introduction of artcolleges, confirming that art-works can provide twice more (to artists) one earns as minimum wage in the formal sector.
Responding to what inspired the hotel (Hyatt Regency) to sponsor the Gallery group, the General Manager Mr Garry Friend said it was to value youth’ endeavors towards, among others, fighting against unemployment challenge.
Again, the Hotel also got impressed with the group’s local art-works; saying it was not only for personal gain but promoting Tanzanian culture; confirming that it was an endless sponsorship.
“We started sponsoring the group about six months ago through our sister hotel in Zanzibar. The works are showing the reality of the Isles from the past to the present. Even if there are changes in some areas, these paintings remind us the history, something that impresses many people to come to Tanzania” he commented.