The Arawaks are inspired by the founder’s late wife , who was from the Caribbean region of the Taino. Until a few years ago the Arawak Sure footed had been exclusively given to a single store , the famous City Outfitters in Johannesburg . The Arawaks are among the best vulcanised rubber footwear. Made with products such as canvas , denim and leather , the Arawak Sure Footed , are produced exclusively in the Arawak factories in Vietnam
Jozi, as the locals call it, is the third largest city in Africa, with a population of almost 6 million. A place that was once tormented, divided by apartheid into violence and poverty on the one hand and rich neighbourhoods on the other, it is now engaged in a programme of renewal that followed on the heels of the repeal of the racial laws in the early 90s. Today two very different realities coexist: luxury neighbourhoods full of opulent shopping centres, wide motorways and chic bars alongside run-down, poverty-stricken townships. And in the background there’s that classic image of Johannesburg, a surreal mine dump with its heaps of pale yellow pit waste, some of which they are now going to preserve as historical monuments. I was passing through Hillbrow, the first township to be defined as a “grey area” during the apartheid era, admiring the masterpieces of street art that stand out amongst the buildings – in fact the city has the starring role in an urban regeneration project implemented by spray can artists – when I noticed some guys playing basketball. What first caught my attention, and took me back in time, was the court: distinguishable from the asphalt of the road only thanks to the curb, it came with wooden backboards, rusty baskets and, on one side only, a light metal chain-link fence. The game was being played using a fairly worn-looking ball. I felt like I was back in the early 70s, when our basketball courts looked just like this.
This impression was confirmed when my eyes lit on the shoes that some of the guys, probably the better-off ones, were wearing. They were just like the ones we used to wear: classics in indestructible vulcanised rubber, that are no longer on the market back home. Those shoes looked so great, and brought back so many memories that I had to ask, “Excuse me, but are you wearing old Nikes?” “No, they’re ARAWAKs!” “What??” “ARAWAKs!” Never heard of the brand, but I had to have a pair. “So, can you tell me where I could buy some?” “At CITY HALL in Jeppestown.” There I met Ivan, owner of both the shop and the brand, who told me the story behind ARAWAK. The brand, only sold here in South Africa, was inspired by the TAINO people , members of the ARAWAK tribe and the first amerindians in the Caribbean. The idea came from the owner’s wife, who’s originally from the TAINO region of the Caribbean. These were a people who loved colour and tattoos, music and dancing and, coincidentally, a ball game that they called “BATU”. This game attracted the attention of the first Spanish colonists, as the rubber and resin ball bounced – an unknown concept in Europe. So I took a journey, less to Johannesburg than back in time to my childhood, thanks to ARAWAK. And so came the idea of marketing this product over here, to see if the feelings I experienced could be shared by others.