And so the African proverb goes: “If you think you are too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito.” And buzzing into scene enters Ye Traore, the Czech woman from Mali giving back to her native continent bite by bite, or rather sting by sting. And yes, you did read that right. Traore was born in Mali, coming of age there, but now considers The Czech Republic home. And at home she looks speaking fluent Czech to customers inside her shop in the cool-kid neighborhood of Praha 7.
“The Czech Republic is like my second home [but] I want people to know Africa,” she proudly tells TravelCoterie. Her explanation for wanting people to “know Africa” is profound, but delivered so casually, it’s significance could be missed. “It will be better because when we know each other and our cultures, living together is better.”
Bring different cultures together isn’t this businesswoman’s only motivation though. Dig a little deeper and there’s the objection to the unfair trade practices that have plagued her former home. “People in Africa are really working hard, there’s a lot of creation and inspiration, but the commercial exchange between Europe, America, and Africa is not really fair. Things are coming into Africa but are not coming [out].”
Traore is actively writing that wrong. Her vehicle: an African market here in Prague with artwork, jewelry, clothing, food and products imported from the birthplace of mankind. “[There’s] basically a lot of stuff from West Africa because I’m from there and it’s easy to get from there. Mali, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Uganda … Morocco. We are growing slowly and slowly and are happy that people appreciate it.”
A look around her shop provides confirmation that people do appreciate it. As we conduct our interview, shoppers come and go, purchasing items and chatting with Traore. She is part of the community, which makes sense since this has been her second home for 28 years. “The generation born after the revolution, they don’t have much of a problem with foreigners,” she explains. “Now, there are a lot more Black people here than 10 years ago.”
Traore’s shop, African Art & Culture, is located at Kamenická 599/26, 170 00 Praha 7-Holešovice, Czechia.