Zimbabweans are some of the most talented artisans in Africa, famed for their high-quality and often cutting-edge craftsmanship. Their wares can be found all around Zimbabwe — from high-end boutiques selling couture dresses, to roadside markets in rural areas hawking super-trendy wooden earrings, to quaint shops offering soapstone sculptures and hand-dyed batik created by industrious locals. Here’s a quick guide to shopping in Zimbabwe’s most popular tourist destination, Victoria Falls.
Victoria Falls is home to many notable boutiques and high-end shops, most of which are housed in the excellent Elephants Walk Shopping & Artist Village on the edge of downtown. It was created as a collective interested in promoting local artists, and today houses a mixture of galleries and individual stalls selling nearly every style and genre of Zimbabwean and African art imaginable, including a lot of incredibly creative designs.Elephants Walk:
- Prime Art Gallery, which sells original pieces by Zimbabwe’s most well-known modern day Shona sculptor, Dominic Benhura, whose work has been shown around the world.
- Matsimela, a South African body-care company, also has a branch here. Check out their luscious flavored body scrubs and scented soaps produced with indigenous ingredients.
- Ndau Collection Studio focuses on eclectic hand-made silver jewelry embellished with everything from antique African trade beads to semi precious stones and leather materials. The pieces are one of a kind – and can be custom designed – and make great gifts.
There are two excellent markets in Vic Falls, where bartering is expected. Expect to be approached by enterprising, slightly annoying, but harmless youth trying to sell authentic “billion dollar notes” from the days when inflation was spiraling out of control, and token necklaces carved in the shape of the mystical Zambezi river god known as Nyaminyami – it is said that wearing one will protect you, especially while rafting the Zambezi.
- Mukuni Village Craft Market is located opposite the entrance to Victoria Falls Rainforest Park in the car park. It features dozens of stalls selling mostly stone and wood pieces – having the artist carve your name, the date and where you are into soapstone ashtrays or wall hangings is very popular. Also keep an eye out for green malachite necklaces, intricately carved wooden walking sticks and masks from all over Africa.
- Victoria Falls Craft Market is located downtown on Adam Stander Drive. Here you’ll find a range of stalls inside a boxy complex, plus plenty of large sculptures and vendors with small stands spilling out onto the lawn fronting the road. Look for elephant hair jewelry, wire and beaded baobab trees and bicycles and extra large Shona sculptures.
A word about bargaining
When shopping in boutiques, expect prices to be fixed and bartering to be an insult, but at the markets, bartering is a must. Note that when you’ve reached the seller’s bottom price he or she simply won’t go any lower. At that point you should probably purchase the product unless it is well above your price-point — it is actually considered rude to begin bartering in earnest and then walk away, so when deciding whether to negotiate after asking the initial price, consider if you’d pay around 30% less than the starting price for an item, if you will, you’ll have a good shot of getting it; if you won’t, say thank you and walk away.