Agustino Mmwanga of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, is not fully satisfied with his current business arrangement. However, it’s a lot better than a time pass when he made minimum gains from his labours. Then unscrupulous businessmen took advantage of his innocence and love of his work to use him for all they could get.



Those days are long behind him now and he secures all the benefits from working at home. This way he maximises the financial gains obtained from his efforts. One thing for sure if he ever had to take on a contract to go elsewhere to work, away from his home; he would insists that all agreement be put down in writing first and signed in front of a lawyer.



No one can take advantage of this local carver again. Now that he fully understands what the popular adage, “Once bitten twice shy,” means. To concretise this teaching he has been bitten not twice but thrice. His big opportunity came when Dastani Simon, his guru, went to Europe for an exhibition in 1990.


It seemed quite normal for the elder carver to leave his workshop under the then up-coming Mwanga’s supervision. On his return he found all in order and told Mwanga he will get his chance to go outside the country one day. This opportunity came the following year and on two other occasions some time later.


However, it was sad to hear the carver say that on all three occasions he did not make any direct financial gains from the ventures. On each occasion he came back home without a shilling in his pocket to show for his time and efforts in Europe.


The only benefits he got came from the physical exposure. There turned out to be no financial rewards, as he was promised before leaving his home on each occasion.


Concerning these endeavours he says, “On my return home to Tanzania, I followed-up on the man, who had arranged the entire mission and had promised that I’ll get a lump sum of money when we return home to Tanzania.”


This never happen! The carver adds, “After loosing much time and money in feeble endeavour for him to keep his promise, I decided to count it as a loss and to look for other opportunity elsewhere.”


It must be remembered that each time he had gone on one of those missions, he stayed for six or eight months. Having reached Europe Mwanga was given a place to stay and materials to work with so as to produce carvings.


The finished products were displayed in exhibitions, where many of them were sold. Now he maintains that the man who had arranged for these visits has since retired from his regular work and has left Tanzania to return to his country of origin.


The failure of not being able to secure a worthwhile living from this kind of agreement puts Mwanga in a situation. He soon decided to stop embarking on such arrangements and think of another way of doing business.


No need to say bringing money into his household became extra important after he got married. Its even more so now that he has three children to also fend for.


When the above-mentioned agreement failed to work he went about earning a living in a different way, right here. Generally speaking, it takes him three days to make one carving, which he sells to a trader based in the city centre.


It’s a number of decades since carvers, including Mwanga have been bringing their artefacts to this traders shop in exchange for cash. In earlier days the trader’s father ran the business but when the elder passed away in 1981 the son took over.

Author: Iman Mani
Date: 16.11.2008