Suni Magyar never planned on owning a crafts shop. Busy with her reflexology business in Uganda's capital of Kampala, the Kenyan-born, British-educated Hungarian-Scot set up Banana Boat, her first tiny 2-sq-m shop, on a whim. "There were lots of expats living in the city with big houses, lots of wall space and nothing to put on them," explains Magyar.
Drawing on her diverse background and a foundation art course in Britain Magyar works with more than 90 small local producers and craftspeople who design a range of household items made from indigenous materials. The results are innovative and stylish. Bark cloth "a wonderful material that is peeled from the trunk of a fig tree and traditionally used as clothing" is coaxed into purses, cushion covers, jewelry bags, even Christmas stockings. Ugandan village women's basket-weaving skills are applied to banana-leaf and raffia place mats, palm-leaf
cutlery trays and millet-stem and raffia lampshades and coasters, and leatherworkers fashion wine-bottle coolers and photo-album covers.
Magyar's original shop has evolved into three cool and trendy Banana Boat store locations in Kampala, as well as an export business. With Banana Boat a nickname for Ugandan canoes thriving, the multitasking mother of two toddlers is now overseeing the building of a safari lodge in one of Uganda's national parks, while continuing to design new products for the shops. In the works: a range of bark-cloth finger puppets. tel: (256) 772 799 555; email@example.com