I bought a purse in South Africa

In Canada, my coworkers usually noticed that I didn’t bring anything with me to work except for my iPhone. There are days where I’d bring my lunch bag or an umbrella and that was it. I try to be a minimalist one way or another. 

I guess it all started as a trial. I remember the first time I tried to go to work with just my phone, a debit card, and a bus pass. The card and the bus pass are attached to the back of my phone using an attachable credit card holder. All three still came in one piece.  At first, I thought, what if I needed this or that and the list went on and on.  As the day went by, I realized that everything I needed was with me and whatever else I might need is easily accessible and if worse comes to worst, I’ll just have to deal with it.  That day too, I realized what a relief it is not to dig into a purse trying to find my phone and other items. I also noticed that I don’t collect the receipts as much because there’s no room to put them in.

Now that we are travelling around the world, I only brought one teeny, tiny canvas purse with me which I have used for all of our travels since leaving Vancouver. I bought it from one of the local moms in a Facebook Group 2 years ago. She was selling bags and purses as a supplemental income. It has been great! It is around 6 inches in length and it expands to about 6 inches in width. It was like magic! With 5 compartments inside, it was perfect! I still have it to this day but I was afraid that it may wear out as we travel so…

I bought another purse in Cape Town, South Africa! This one is made out of leather. I was intentional of what I wanted to buy. It has to be leather and almost the same size as my current purse. I would like it to have multiple compartments but if not, I’d like it to be able to fit the current purse I have.

leather purse from south africa

It was a tough search but I was positive that I would find the right one in terms of design, quality and material.

After a few rounds around the market and after walking just 1 block off the main market, I found a little gem of a shop filled with handmade leather bags. His designs are amazing and quite unique from the others and his price is surprisingly low too. I spotted the one I really liked (made of buffalo leather) and tested if my old purse would fit and it sure did. We agreed on a price and it was a great deal for both of us.

I was looking at it and putting my stuff in it so happily while having my lunch at a nearby KFC (I love their fried chicken with gravy on pap – the South African milled corn) and then I thought I should get something small for my kids Rianne and Ryan so I went back to his store to see what he had for kids. He’s got these little tiny pouches which are perfect! One was purple made up of ostrich skin for Rianne and I made sure Ryan got one with crocodile skin.

The maker and seller recognized me immediately and said… “You came back! Whatever you like, I’ll give you a good price”. I said, “I only want a small one for my kids” and I pointed at the small pouches. He gave it to me for a reasonable price and I bought them.

leather purse from south africa
Photographed at 33 South Backpackers in Observatory

He then asked where I was from and I answered “I am from the Philippines” so they wouldn’t think I have the “dollars” to spend. South Africans would normally express wonder whey they find out I am Filipino. I am not sure what they know about my country and how they know about it. However, it seems as though they know something about the Philippines even before we met!

At some point he mentioned, “Everything is handmade here”. He showed the tools of the trade that he brings with him to the market.

From that instance, it was like nostalgia.

I remembered how all my shoes and bags back in the Philippines when I was growing up were all custom-made by a shoe maker in Marikina (the shoe capital of the Philippines). My sisters and I would cut out a design from a magazine for the shoe-maker to copy. My eldest sister used to have a line of sandals and shoes we can pick from. There were even belts and wallets. Leather goods and products is in my blood. It used to be my family’s livelihood.

So, I told stories to the maker how my Dad would travel all over the Philippines to buy raw hide from butchers. We searched for cow, goat and pig hides.  We even used to have a tannery where the raw hide was converted to useable leather and then sold to the makers of Marikina. We painted the leather into many different colours. Black and brown would be the most common. My eldest sister would mix paint to get the colours, grey, tan, amaretto, and many more. As a young child, I would ask if I could help paint on the leather and if they allowed me, I felt like I was in heaven!!

Wow…so many memories!

“Now, I want to go to the Philippines so you can show me all this!” the maker exclaimed. I remembered almost everything from our family business.

Sadly, I had to break the bad news to him that with the emergence of imported products from China, the leather business in the Philippines slowly died. He agreed that the same thing is happening in South Africa but he also said that people are having a change of mindset now. They’d rather buy good quality products rather than deciding based on price alone.

With hope in his words, he said, “It’s coming back!!” And that is very great news to hear!

leather purse from south africa

As I walked back to meet Ricky and the kids from a Township Tour, I was happy. I was filled with childhood memories that spanned 20-25 years ago. Most of all, the purse I am carrying with me now has a story and history of its’ own. I am also happy that I was able to support a local maker, that the money I paid for it went directly into his pocket and just like my parents, the money I paid will directly benefit his family.  I am happy that with that simple action, it actually means a lot more to him and to me.

It sure is not  Prada but definitely not nada!

One Comment Add yours

  1. sudhaorchid@hotmail.com' Sudha says:

    Would like to see what Rianne and Ryan got from that shop.
    Beautiful memories attached to your lovely purse from SA

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *