|Used Clothes For Sale in Owino Market, Kampala,Uganda|
I was told by one of my American volunteer colleagues, Sam Tuttleman, that Ugandans think that the used clothes that are found here are from “dead white Americans”. Sam explained that they think this because only when people die, they reason, would such fine clothes be discarded.
Now it is true that large quantities of used clothes from organizations such as the Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries are sold to third world countries generally and in particular, Uganda. Apparently, the volume of clothes collected in the United States is too large to be resold locally. According to Sam, there is a movement to reduce the flow of used clothes to Africa because some argue that it undermines the African textile industry. For more information about this see for example: http://www.theroot.com/views/dead-white-people-s-clothes .
But I wanted to test the veracity of the way Ugandans characterize these garments. First I checked at the Owino Market in Kampala, the largest open air clothes market in Uganda and one of the biggest in Africa. Yes, I saw many used American garments and also bundles of used clothes that were unopened. Then I asked one of my co-workers, Jennifer Amejja. “No she chuckled, we Ugandans know this is untrue. There are so many clothes, how could there by so many dead Americans? But she added, we think that you Americans give away good clothes when you tire of them.”