A lovely thing or two: my evening market experience

When I first heard of the evening market practice of some traders at Ogbete main market, Enugu, popularly known as "uwa mgbede", I scoffed at them and said to myself – who will patronise them, kwanu? Imagine going to market by 5PM, just to buy worn clothes for N50-N200!
When a friend told me she bought some good gym clothes there for N50 and N100 apiece, I laughed in derision and thought to myself – classless small-town people. Little did I know I would one day be a fan of these industrious traders and their sometimes-fabulous finds.
My first buy happened last year, when I rushed to the market to buy a piece of material my tailor urgently needed. I hated going to Ogbete main market, so I avoided it as much as possible. Sweaty people milling around enclosed spaces just wasn’t my style.
But, on that fateful day, I had to go to Ogbete if I wanted my unreliable, flighty tailor to have my gown ready for the event I wanted to wear it to.
So, I trudged to Ogbete main market, angry and impatient, some few minutes after 4PM. The traders were already packing up in preparation for close of business. Luckily, I found the exact shade of Lycra I wanted, and I was on my way out of the market, back to the bus-stop where I would board a bus going to IMT, when I saw an unbelievable crush of people at the open space meant to be used as car park. Traders were hawking clothes on wheel barrows; beautiful well-dressed, young and hip women were ruffling through masses of clothes on the wheel barrows, and tucking their finds under their armpits, tight grips on their hand-bags.
Curiosity got the better of me, and I couldn’t hold myself from asking one of the traders how much he would sell the black leggings he kept stretching and stretching as he touted its quality.
"All of them na N100, N100," he said.
My long suppressed shopaholic instinct kicked in and I found myself bending down my trunk (as the former DVC at Madonna University would say) following the mad crowd to dash through pile upon pile of clothes.
That day, I lost N1,000. I don’t know how it happened. I just found myself staring at my bare hand, devoid of the N1,000 note it was gripping earlier. An initiation, some people called it. For, one who is new to the uwa mgbede scene must lose a valuable item to pick-pockets. It is a given.
Well, as a Johnny-just-come, I bought some no-good clothes that "looked" good at the time, but I also got some fabulous finds: a beautiful multi-coloured scarf by an Italian designer, a lovely polo in pink I wear to jog and a beaded top that I de-beaded and used the beads to make a fine necklace with matching ear-rings I later sold to my mom’s friend for N1,500.
All-in-all, I spent N500. It was a good experience, and I took to dropping by the Enugu uwa mgbede market, once a month.
A practice I missed when I moved to Lagos, thinking uwa mgbede fabulous finds were peculiar to Enugu.
How wrong I am! Lagosians have mastered uwa mgbede trading to a T.
The Lagos uwa mgbede market is far more lucrative than its Enugu counterpart. Whereas, the latter disperse by 7PM latest, the former trade well into midnight and has many more fabulous items than its South-eastern counterpart.
So imagine my joy when I bought the elusive Black Opal blemish control masque for N200 at Berger bus stop; I was ecstatic, even though it had "Not for sale. For testing purposes only" discreetly emblazoned on it. Or my orgasmic excitement when I bought Candace Bushnell’s Lipstick Jungle for N100 at Balogun market: again, it had "Not for sale. Cosmopolitan’s copy" discreetly typed on it.
I have long since concluded that piracy is common in Nigeria, alongside its twin brother greed. But, I have also determined that the fabulous clothes with original-looking St Michaels’ tag could only have come from Thrift shops and Red-cross offices in "Abroad" – those charity foundations where the Oyibo people go to drop their unwanted items for the less privileged people of Africa. Thank God for Oyibo people’s generosity! Those Africans are really suffering. That hot "country" with its corrupt leaders. God help Africa!
Walking home from work one night, sometime last month, I thanked God, AGAIN, for the faceless Oyibo women who send their "worn" clothes with the occasional designer-tags to Africa in the name of poverty relief.
Such generosity must be applauded, even when their good intentions by-pass the truly less privileged and fall into the hands of fashion-conscious-educated-working-class people like me. Yes, they must be appreciated.
As I alighted from the annoyingly stuffy bus I had boarded from Iyana Oworo, my laser-sharp-good-clothes-spotting eyes spotted a lovely camisole in polka-dotted black and white spread out on thin nylon sheets. I fell instantly in love. I quickly gave it a once-over and judged it to be my size. In my mind’s eye, in a far-away place of quick wardrobe planning necessitated by the crazy Lagos traffic, I was teaming the silky camisole nicely with the many grey, black suits in my wardrobe.
So, I stopped and asked in that bored tone one must adopt with traders, "Madam, how much be this top?" Pointing at the camisole.
Raising it up for me to see and admire (if only she knew!), she replied, "Auntie, na N200. You see say na fine top and e still dey new."
(By the way, what’s this obsession with Lagosians and calling every woman "Auntie"? Do we all resemble their mothers’ sisters? *sighs*)
I jubilated inwardly – cheap article. But a lifetime of being told one must "kwee afia onu" (one must haggle prices with traders) had me asking, "you no go sell N100? Na N100 I get."
Brandishing the N100 change the bus conductor had given me earlier, I waited, tapping my foot impatiently, as if I were in a haste and can’t afford to stay haggling.
What for, I asked myself. The camisole is a give-away at N200, Ego. Don’t be such a meanie!
As I was about to bring out my wallet and give her the damn N200, she capitulated and I went home the happy owner of a beautiful silk camisole by the London designer, Anne Brooks. A camisole I wouldn’t have been able to afford, otherwise.
The three times I’ve worn the camisole, since I bought it, teamed with different suits, I’ve gotten admiring glances, a cat-call, and four toasters. One of the toasters was a handsome young thing named Sola; an accountant I shared a gulf-cart (means of transport for Dolphin estate residents) with, one early morning. He obviously thought I was pretty, hip, a-must-chyke. For, even though I was cool towards him – an attitude I employ for strangers, and one which have had people calling me snobbish – he still chyked me, and wanted to take me for lunch.
How adorable! I was tempted -dude is handsome- but then I remembered all those #CougarAlert hash tags on Twitter and the disparaging things I said about Mariah Carey and Nick Canon. I smiled, gave him my number knowing I will never answer his calls and he will delete my number after series of unanswered calls.
In the light of these ego-enhancing encounters, I’ve decided to name the Anne Brooks camisole "my goodluck camisole".
God bless traders! God bless Oyibo people! God bless Africa!
Nwanne, sometimes, uwa mgbede ka mma!


About Egoyibo Okoro

Beautiful. Friendly. Opinionated. Feminist. Scholarly. Political. Christian. Sometimes, I write in Engli-Igbo and/or pidgin English. Just so you know, I am naturally disgruntled about a lot of things, most especially gender inequality, human rights abuses, racism and corruption. #EndChildMarriage. #EndTerrorism. #EndPoverty. #EndRacism. #EndImperialism. The Igbo say, "egbe bere, ugo bere, nke si ibe ya ebena nku kwa ya" - Live and let live!
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4 Responses to A lovely thing or two: my evening market experience

  1. prince Chioke says:

    Uwa mgbede, Uwa efifie, Uwaa bu paw paw! Hehe! Nice piece…

    • Eziokwu ka ikwuru, nwa nnaa! Uwa a paw paw… Thanks Luv.Eziokwu ka ikwuru, nwa nnaa! Uwa a paw paw… Thanks Luv.
      Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld from Glo Mobile.

  2. egbuyugo says:

    Nice article.eziokwu ka i kwuru.uwa mgbede kacha nma

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