Stereo Upgrade
(Mji Mkongwe, Zanzibar)

Recently a civic makeover and a deep cleaning of sorts took place at a small square in the center of historic Stone Town, Zanzibar. At the intersection of four narrow passageways known casually as Jaws Corner, doors have been painted with new colors, concrete has been scrubbed, and even a few new hand-painted signs can be seen. The location’s main electricity box, whose top surface once supported the unofficial transistor radio of the square, even received a well-deserved makeover. The electricity box’s neighboring mural (formerly depicting a shark in transit) has also been updated and reconceived—the new mural this time with a high-tech Hollywood inspired design that some quietly say is a bit out of touch with the square’s atmosphere and purpose in general.

Another updated feature worth mentioning: the original overhead television support brace (located a few steps diagonally across from the electricity box, and just above the fruit vendor’s goods) currently remains empty, as a newly designed metal audio-visual cabinet (with locking doors) is now to be found in the far corner across the square. The new AV cabinet—the well-regarded work of one of the door painters team—houses a recent edition Videocon IVE40F21A 98cm Full HD LED flat screen television, purchased with funds from the collection can of the local political fraction, the Civic United Front. This new high tech acquisition is certainly a much needed upgrade from the previous Onida IGO CRT television set, which for many years was a beloved and well cared for, local lifeline to national and international news reports, as well as to a variety of regional public service announcements and civic debates. As of late, however, the Onida set—ancient and well-worn—had lost its audio capabilities and continued to function only due to its closed captioning service for the hearing impaired. The days of the old monitor were clearly numbered, and agitation was often openly felt during public screenings, especially from the disenfranchised, illiterate and visually impaired citizens of the district.

One of the chief sign painters from the 2013 Mafia Airport renovations in nearby Kilindoni—who is known for his preference for certain shades of blue (and light green when possible), and who was credited with the overall scheme of the Jaws Corner revitalization plan—is believed to have proactively recommended the updated audio-visual system for future events in the square.

Roaming area dogs and cats—independent and claimed by no one in particular—seem to be as pleased as anybody by the recent purchase of the Videocon HD stereo monitor. Most often when the new system is first switched on—and the initial brand logo & welcome tones are to be heard—a unanimous outpouring of barks and chirrups excitedly activates the square and its inhabitants. One thin gray dog in particular, one of the older members of the group, and often found asleep and at ease beside the coffee maker’s post, even appears (with a dignified gesture resembling those sometimes made by regional statesmen) to lift a front paw as a form of salutation to the initial melodic tone emanating from the overhead AV cabinet.

The taciturn yet generous coffee maker himself, when asked his opinion in the matter, is thankful for anything that brings joy to his wiry-haired companion, and to the square’s inhabitants in general. Secondarily he noted that the fruit vendor (though he would never admit it publicly) is relieved at the relocation of the television’s position in the square. As the coffee maker explained, “Even though the old television monitor was only used for a few hours every week, he was never really at ease with electronic technology emanating from directly above his fruits and vegetables. As well, he will with certainty be happy to use the now empty, overhead wooden television brace as an extra shelf and hanging mechanism for his business.”

On last check, during the preparation for a weeknight viewing of a European football match, a pair of fine new hand-woven baskets (perfect for carrying new fruit and vegetable purchases) were to be found on the shelf. Whether they were for sale, or solely belonged to the vendor himself, was at the time unclear.