Byayi Creations

There is a corner of my sectional sofa that doubles as a diaper changing area. When my son was a few months old (yes, I had a baby in the time that I’ve been away!) the corner began to get cluttered with toys and knick-knacks that couldn’t seem to be contained no matter how many times I arranged and rearranged them. Frustrated, I saw that it was time to get a diaper caddy – one that would fit neatly in the corner, not take up too much space, and also not be hideous to look at. If I were in the US (yes, I moved to Uganda!) I’d have hit up Amazon for options but since I’m in Uganda I thought to myself, why not have something custom-made?

One of the perks of living here is that craftspeople abound – along with affordable natural materials. While scouring one of my local Facebook groups for recommendations, I happened upon Byayi Creations. (Byayi = banana bark, in Luganda and its linguistic cousins.) A few WhatsApp messages with Andrew Mukuve, the founder and lead craftsperson, and a week later I was in possession of a unique banana bark diaper caddy plus two larger lidded storage boxes.

A few months thereafter I was looking for a suitable – i.e. functional, personal, tasteful – gift for some family friends who have a toddler who likes to organise things. Not only did Andrew make another toy box in the span of two days, he was also able to weave the child’s name into the side for a personal touch which made it just that much of a joy to hand over. (Said child immediately went about gleefully transferring all his toys into the box over which he now claims proud ownership .)

What I immediately loved about the boxes – which was also our family friends’ first remark – is the neatness. You can tell that they’ve been carefully fashioned by people who take pride in their work. Their construction is are also very sturdy, and waterproof if one opts for varnish (as I did). On a recent visit to the Byayi Creations workshop in Kasangati, I saw some other creations (including a delightfully unique chess set pictured below) and spent some time chatting with Andrew about how he got into this art form, his background, and how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the business. It was a rich conversation that I intend to share in more detail down the line – so stay tuned!

In the meantime: Byayi Creations turns two years old this month and they’re running a celebratory discount, so now is a great opportunity to have your ideas brought to life – or browse their catalog via Jumia, Jiji, Facebook, Instagram. Coincidentally, Andrew and his wife have also just welcomed their first baby so the support would surely be extra appreciated!

A note to the Byayi team: I’ve come out of a two-year-long hiatus to write this. Thank you for doing work that has moved me to this extent.

Andrew ‘Jinja’ Mukuve, founder and lead craftsperson at Byayi Creations.

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