Kuisebmund Market Evokes the Past

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By Charles Tjatindi

WALVIS BAY

Old habits die hard. At least this is the perception that could be derived from the scenery at Kuisebmund open market.

The market is located at the same site that used to host the now demolished compounds for migrant workers in pre-independence Namibia. In keeping with tradition and the lifestyle of the compound’s residents –
most of them now aged and others having passed on – the market boasts an array of activities ranging from kapana vendors to clothing traders.

This market is of great significance to those that frequent it.
Contrary to a stranger’s perception that might confine the market to the ordinary Namibian market at first glance, residents here value it more.
Hafeni Shaanika says he finds comfort and a sense of belonging when he visits this place.

“People here are not judgmental. We are all friends here. We meet here to socialize and talk about many things,” he said.

Shaanika is among a group of young people seated in one corner of the market playing a board game. In another corner, a young girl tries to convince a would-be customer to buy her oshikundu – a non-alcoholic homebrew made from mahangu.

The girl eventually manages to shake off tough competition from her two older competitors who are seated next to her, and the customer willingly hands her N$2 for a litre of the home-brewed drink.

Further down the market, various traders attempt to entice customers with their flame-fried chakalaka sausages by letting customers taste them for free before their deciding where to buy. That is of course before the customer is shoved to one side by a passing wheelbarrow loaded with mealies on its way to a waiting customer at the other end of the market.

Despite the apparent good trading spirit here, health is a major concern. The market, as informal as it is, has no toilet facilities available for both traders and customers. The walls of nearby residences have therefore proven a feasible ground for relief when nature calls.

This does not appear to bother the traders or customers at the site, as they would willingly take a stroll to the walls to help themselves, before casually returning to the market to pick up from where they left off.
“I always wash my hands after that,” says Paullina Nangolo, as she turns her sausages on her self-made frying pan.

“My customers know that I am clean, they do not mind buying my products,” said Nangolo before turning to an inquiring customer.

Those trading in fruits and vegetables at the market have their own worries.
“People selling these types of things here have become a lot now. We cannot make enough money any more,” said one vendor.

Even when they try to complement their income by sacrificing long hours at the market, which often span into the late evenings, it does not really help, he says.

The market’s most profitable business appears to be that trading in ‘ombike’ and ‘omalovu’ – some homemade alcoholic concoctions. As the market is strategically located, people passing the market from work often stop by and indulge in a few drinks before going home.

Such is life at this market – a life closely linked to that led by migrant workers back in those days, as a means of passing time when off duty. At close inspection, it appears definite that it will take a lot to kill old habits of both traders and customers at this market.

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