Have you ever had one of those days where you decide to toss the careful itineraries and just explore and discover random spots in your city? That was me a few days back. And that is how I stumbled upon the lovely gem that is Amani ya Juu. I am probably late to the party (I’m always late to the party) because this is not necessarily a new spot to grace Nairobi’s bustling cultural scene, yet I had never heard of this place before. I was with a friend on Riverside Drive when we saw the sign for the Amani ya Juu cafe and decided to abruptly take a sharp left turn and discover what this place has to offer. Sometimes you just have to embrace the spontaneity even if it means being hooted at by angry drivers because it was totally worth it.
The first thing that caught my eye was how green everything was. The shop is a bungalow nestled among expansive leafy bushes that in my opinion add a lot of character. Their selection of items encompassed quite a wide range, from jewellery, to kitchen utensils, to clothing, to quilts, to bags and accessories. The children’s section of the store was particularly wonderful with a great collection of dolls and toys as well as cute and fashionable clothing options for the little ones.
I really enjoyed wandering through the store, taking in all the colour and creativity, and admiring the high level craftmanship displayed on each item. I kept on finding items that I knew would be perfect gifts for family and friends; from mums & aunties, to cousins with newborn babies. In the end though, my altruistic self lost the war and I ended up purchasing a dress which I really liked for myself.
Of course, artisanal shops in Nairobi touting “African” products are a dime a dozen, with majority of these places being very guilty of problematic attitudes such as primarily catering to the white gaze and pushing the whole poverty porn narrative. For some reason though, Amani ya Juu felt different to me. I appreciated how affordable most of the items were while still maintaining the high quality. I’m always quite disappointed by how inaccessible some local artisanal shops are. The high price tags make it difficult to support local artisans despite one’s best intentions. I liked how friendly the staff were without being stifling. It’s such a nice feeling being able to explore and wander in peace without having an attendant hovering around you the whole time.
I had a lovely experience at Amani ya Juu and it’s definitely the kind of place in my book worth visiting. You just might discover something unique or something you love in their collection.
*Amani ya Juu website: link