Actually, it may sometimes be more expensive to purchase local arts & craft from stores than it is to purchase them from street vendors.
What to buy: Wow...there were so many amazing things to shop for...I'm not even sure where to start! Okay, for starters, if you are one for art appreciation and wood carvings...there are a variety of wooden carvings available for purchase, depicting people, animals, and what not. The carvings are usually made from a dark ebony wood (and the occasional ivory). Lovely finish, and just absolutely beautiful to own and admire. They also use animal hides (goat, etc.) to make certain instruments (like drums of every size, etc.) and furniture (chairs and end tables, etc.). Very artistic, indeed. There are also exquisitely woven baskets handicrafted by the women (and maybe even men). Also on display are vividly colored native clothes for purchase, whether they are tunics or skirts. I must say, there is something available for everyone!
What to pay: It varies for each item and how much the craftsman is willing to charge. Also, don't be shy to strike up a bargain. That is typical in the country and some haggling is to be expected. Wouldn't you like to get a better price, anyhow?
You will see woodcarvings all over malawi , and i found a concentration of wood carvers aroun dthe foreshores of lake malawi , there works are some of the best ive seen and very reasonably priced , they barter well too.
The story quilt pictures was not the best i admit, but i was taking a picture of the sign.
What to buy: When I was in Lilongwe The hotel had wonderful folk art quilted tapestries/ story quilts everywhere. I fell compeltely in love with them! The hotel was asking for them at at least 200 dollars. I had trouble finding mine at the market we visited in Malawi, however I was able to find it in a market it in Dar es Salaam Tanzania. I managed to get mine for 50 dollars, and it had the artists handwritten notes on the individual scenes so that i wouldnt forget the stages of the story quilt. Ask about the story, and if they can have it writen out. I gave mine to my mother and father and when i explained the story of the quilt and showed them the artists note they were more then just overwhelmed! *Mine was of an African Wedding*
What to pay: Depending on where you go to get it, and how hard you can barter they can vary from 200-350. Those prices when directly marked are not soft, you can try to barter but i wouldnt. If you are the markets, barter hard, i might have been able to go for a better price, she started at 70 and i did get her down to 50. But be prepared to barter in most places.
What to buy:
Skip the Malawi Gin, it is nice has a distinct flavor but unless you really like gin you wont notice it. Do buy the African Coffee it is amazing it may be instant but it is still some of the best coffee ever!
What to pay: about 10 dollars a bottle
You can buy things from the markets in Lilongwe, the wood work and soap stone carvings in particular are well done.
What to buy: Cheif Chairs- a traditional item. These elaborate carvings were designed for the tribes leader. They are distinct and beatiful. They look like they cannot hold anyone, but they can seat a full grown man! TEST YOUR CHAIR! It should be stable, and hold your weight. These chairs can be very elaborate in some cases, and not so much in others. I got mine for 30 dollars, roughly, it was of a medium quailty carving but strong sturdy wood. They wanted it for 60 at first. I had trouble packing it, but managed it and got it home ok. The motifs vary but the "Big Five" are the most popular. I got some great candle sticks of wood, and napkin rings, and even a real ebony table. Ebony is not legally harvested in Tanzania, but it is still ok in Malawi. It should be heavy and very dark. And i mean heavy! It is a dense slow growing wood. You have to be careful though as the they will try and sell you wood made to look like ebony, this is achieved by shoe polish! So you really need to be aware, i bought my mother an elephant statue that is roughly 1 and half pounds. I love elephants, and tend to give them as gifts to people. Be careful if buyin anything that the wood is actually even. My mom's elephant was not, we ended up stabalizing it with little felt feet at home. I also bought a wonderful round fine ebony end table for 30 dollars. They had asked for 100 originally!
If you go out further into the country down to the "resorts" of Lake Malawi you will find local craftsmen of extremely good quailty.
What to pay: In the markets of Lilongwe you should expect to pay at least 50% more then you would in the country at the craftsmen's shop. The image below is of one of those shops. For instance and entire set of 12, 12 inch tall nativity figures was 1 dollar a peice. In the City it would have been about much more. Depending on how well you can barter really makes the price, if you can work in teams do so. If you cannot get them to take your price, leave. They normally will go after you with the object and either try and argue more over the price or flat out give it to you.
Inside the Mua Mission, in Mua. The shop is within a conde (traditional Malawi hut) and is run by missionaries. The wooden sculptures are of high quality and are done by local craftmen sponsored by Mission.
What to buy: Wooden crafts: statues, ustensils, large wooden busts etc..
What to pay: $10 and up
What to buy:
Everybody in Malawi knows how to play this game and its good fun to play it with alocal. Try to win, hehe!
Expect to pay about 5 to 10 US $ depending on the design, quality of the wood and your batrgaining skills.
The markets in the smaller towns and villages have a lot more charm than the ones in the larger cities but all of them sell a wide range of local crafts. They are also very good at haggling, so brush up on your skills if you want a total bargain.
What to buy: There are some beautiful soapstone sculptures and also some great wood carvings.
What to pay: Whatever you think is reasonable and depending on the size of the item.
Very difficult to find, even in good bookshops!
What to buy: “Lake Of Stars“ by Vera Garland & Frank Johnston
Frank Johnston was based in Malawi for 23 years and put some amazing photos in this excellent book! Get It!
Only in the good boockshops in Malawi!
What to buy: "A guide To Malawi" by David Stuart-Mogg
Stuart-Mogg lived and worked in Malawi for four years as a Manager of “Malawi Hotels Group”. If you are interested in some other information besides the LP ones then get this book!
What to buy:
"Nali" (Piri Piri Sauce) It´s a quite hot sauce that calls it self "Dynamite - Africas Hottest".
What to pay: nearly nothing
In nearly all supermarkets around the country!
What to buy: "Malawi Gin" is a very smooth typ of gin with high quality.
"Shire" is absolutely brilliant stuff to mix a Caipirina!
What to pay: Only a few dollars
You can buy carvings on street markets or in a few shops in the expensive hotels.
What to buy: There are plenty of wonderful carvings but most famous are the "Chief´s Chairs"!
What to pay: You have to bargain.
I had a wonderful stay at Madidi Lodge in April 2011. The manager/owners are very friendly and...more
2 HANNOVER AVENUE, Blantyre, MA 1
Good for: Couples
We stopped here for lunch on a trip through the area. It was a beautiful setting on a patio...more
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