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Homowo – The African Festival of the Rains - Another Lovely Way to Show Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a celebration that is observed in a select few countries around the world. However, while it is not a universal celebration, many other countries and regions do share similar festivals and celebrations. In Africa, it is known as Festival of the Rains or the Homowo Festival. 

About the Homowo Festival

The Homowo Festival is a traditional harvest celebration that is celebrated by the Ga people of Ghana in West Africa. It is the largest cultural festival of its kind in the country. The word Homowo means “hooting at hunger,” and the origins of the festival are directly tied to the migration of the Ga people to Ghana. As the story goes, the Ga people travelled nomadically for many years before settling on the west coast – a place they still reside to this day. Along their journey, the Ga people experienced famine; however, rather than giving in, they supported each other through the difficult times and survived. It said that the people were inspired by the famine, which led to large food production processes eventually creating a bumper harvest. Once they settled and their harvest became plentiful, they held a huge feast where they reflected upon and laughed at the hunger and difficult times they overcame. This is known as the first Homowo celebration. With the Ga people’s hunger ended, it’s said they “hooted at hunger.”

Today the festival includes a procession of priests sprinkling kpokpoi in the streets, along with drumming, singing, dancing and horn blowing. At home, families share the traditional kpokpoi in a common bowl, with everyone joining in a festival dance called “oshi joo.” The festival traditionally ends on a Sunday with a closing ceremony known as “Noowala Hamo,” where friends and family visit, exchange the Homowo greeting and settle disputes and misunderstandings.

Other Cultural Celebrations: The First Fruits Ceremony

Other Africans also have similar festivals during harvest season. One of the most common is called “first fruits.” This involves several days of planning to bless the newly harvested crop and purify the people prior to eating the food from the harvest.

A Recipe for Traditional Homowo Meal

As with other festivals and celebrations around the world, Homowo has a traditional meal, known as Kpokpoi.

The meal is made using steamed corn dough that is mixed with palm oil. It’s traditionally served with fish and palm soup. Sticking with tradition, when the meal is prepared, the head of the family sprinkles some of the kpokpoi on the doorstep of the home. This is symbolic of feeding the spirts of past family members of the home.

Here is a recipe to make this traditional dish:


  • 6 okra
  • 6 cups of dry corn
  • Salt
  • Corn husks
  • 1 pint of palm oil
Meal Preparation
  • Soak corn for 2 days prior to cooking
  • Wash and grind the corn
  • Sprinkle water on top of corn meal and cover overnight
  • Once corn meal has sat overnight, rub through a sieve.
  • Place a steamer over a pot of boiling water and seal edges with a little corn dough
  • Cover bottom of steamer with clean corn husks
  • Put sifted corn meal into the steamer and allow it to cook over the steam for about half an hour until the kpokpoi gives out a yeasty aroma
  • Slice okra and cook in little water until tender
  • Mash okra and add salt
  • Take kpokpoi out of steamer
  • Sprinkle with salted cool water, using a wooden spoon to break all the lumps
  • Mix with mashed okra
  • If palm oil is used heat and mix with kpokpoi evenly
  • Serve with palm nut soup and fish
We hope you enjoyed exploring a different way of expressing thanks. We are committed to "provoking humanity" by learning about how others observe and celebrate.
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A Guide to Family Tree Style Makonde Sculptures

One of the most popular and fascinating forms of Makonde art is sculpture – especially.  These pieces have become extremely popular today with art collectors and homeowners alike. Considering they come in many shapes, sizes, and types of carvings, it’s not surprising they are popping up all over the world!

Like any other piece of art, the history and origins of the Family Tree Style sculpture only adds to its intrigue.

Origins of Family Tree Style Sculptures

The Family Tree Style sculptures, which are also referred to as “Tree of Life,” date back to the late 1950s and an artistic style called Dimoongo – one of the eight major Makonde styles.

Professor Elias Jengo explains:

“A style called Dimoongo (power of strength), which a local political zealot later named Ujamaa, was introduced by the late Roberto Yakobo Sangwani who migrated into Tanzania from Mozambique in the late 1950s. The original style represented a winner in a wrestling match who was carried shoulder high by his colleagues represented in a cluster of figures. Some later versions were carved showing a female figure at the top of a cluster of figures. This was the beginning of a style known as the Makonde family tree.” With a history of name changes, tracking the Makonde Family Tree sculptures can be a little confusing for the average person. Dimoongo, Ujamaa, and Tree of Life all refer to the same style of art.

Significance of the Makonde “Family Tree”

Even though these carvings have been known by a number of different names, the significance and meaning of the carvings have remained the same over the years. Ujamaa means community and family. This meaning is also echoed in the “Tree of Life” pieces which speak to a common human ancestral heritage. This is why you often see symbols of support and generations of family. Overall, the piece brings out the community harmony the Makonde people strongly believe in.

Common Characteristics and Depictions

The sculptures, while they can take on a variety of shapes, forms, and sizes, have a number of common characteristics representing the symbolism and significance of the carvings. The carvings typically include:
  • A column of people, with one central figure surrounded by smaller figures.
  • One large figure at the top of the pole – often a central figure such as a tribal chief. More modern carvings typically have a female figure at the top.
  • They commonly depict members of extended family – often representing multiple generations.
  • People are often depicted climbing or holding each other up (representing support).
  • People are often shown performing traditional tasks and local work such as cooking or farming.

About the Artists and the Canvas

Family tree sculptures can be as tall as 6 feet, taking artisans up to 9 months to complete. However, they also come in many other sizes, ensuring you can find the perfect carving for your home or office decor.
  • The sculptures have become popular because of their intricate design and decor.
  • They are carved from African blackwood (also known as mpingo).
  • High quality pieces are carved from a single large tree trunk.

What really communicates the beauty of these carvings is their unparalleled, intricately detailed and delicate shapes, making these sculptures highly desirable. Please take a few moments to explore our collection of Family Tree Style Sculptures. They are fascinating pieces, deeply rooted in history. Bring a piece of Africa home with you today. Add a Family Tree Sculpture to your home or office. A unique and fascinating accent, they are also great conversation starters!

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This Started Out As A VERY Different Blog About Evoking Humanity

As those of you who follow us (and thanks for doing so) know, we recently announced our collaboration with Dominic Mancuso Group (and others), beginning a new movement - Evoking Humanity.

Evoking Humanity is an effort undertaken to increase global harmony by sharing (and listening to) each others stories - our "truths". It is an open invitation to engage in celebrating each other's cultures and experiences.

And then the overwhelming events of the past few days happened. We were stunned, dismayed, horrified and, yes, we admit, we began to question ourselves. That this could happen in Canada was unthinkable.

How, we thought, is it possible to help each other through communication, sharing, understanding, listening - in a world where this can happen?

A world where some individuals are so convinced that their truth is the only truth - who believe that people should be forced to believe as they do - and who are prepared to condemn those who are not the same as they are and to act with violence. And then we remembered something that Doctor Martin Luther King said . . .

"Only in the darkness can you see the stars."

We realized it is even more important to continue our movement! While some may see it as remarkably naive, "tilting at windmills", an impossible task - we remind any naysayers that all big ideas, especially those that have wrought positive change for humankind, were aspirations. Navigators, scientists, inventors, those who wrought social change - did so because they had big dreams - big wishes.

Think about it - Gandhi, Einstein, John Lennon, Galileo, Socrates, Bill Gates, Isaac Newton, Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela - we could go on and on and on! If those people hadn`t had big aspirational thoughts they were willing to invest in, where would the world be today?

Furthermore, if we close ourselves off from each other, refusing to share each other's music, art, food, stories and experience - how can we grow? Communication breeds understanding - and (we hope) respect. So, please join us in our journey to Evoke Humanity.

It will be a terrific ride - we promise. Our plan is to engage like-minded musicians, artists, entrepreneurs, students, etc., from all walks of life to tell their stories. The more we communicate with each other - the more stories we share - the more understanding will be fostered.

Please take a moment - now - to remember those who perished. Two brave, contributing men - our Canadian Soldiers - Warrant Officer, Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo. We thank you for your service to Canada and to our people. We are proud of you.

Our launch evening on October 31st - sharing music and art with Dominic Mancuso Group at Galerie Avenue Art in Montreal - is our first step toward Evoking Humanity.

If you'd like to join us, please drop us a note at mustafa@zawadee.com to register. Attendance is free! We'll be pleased to see you receive an invitation. October 31st - Doors open at 8:30p.m. and show begins at 9:30pm.

We will have a wonderful evening - listening to Dominic Mancuso Group, Lorraine Klaasen (both Juno Award Winning artists) and Mario Monaco, an inspiring world percussionist. All in the wonderful setting of the Galerie Avenue Art in Old Montreal.

In late November, we will be holding another evening of art and music in Toronto. Stay tuned - More details coming soon!

At Zawadee - Bring Africa Home, we believe in helping others through empowerment, rather than through charity. To that end, we support the effort of charity; water, in their aspiration to provide clean drinking water to everyone in the world! To that end, we also micro fund deserving artists, entrepreneurs, and students in Africa - helping them to achieve a successful life.

Please join us in our aspiration to "Evoke Humanity". In the words of The Beatles - "we can work it out" because, if we do - "then the world can live as one". Hakuna Matata, people!

Mustafa Salemwalla and Our Zawadee Team

P.S. If you have a story you'd like to share, please let us know. Because we believe, The more we share, the more we care!

P.P.S. Please help us get the word out by sharing this blog.



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The History of Black Friday: Shop Bring Africa Home for up to 70% Off

Black Friday, the day after the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, has become a cultural phenomenon.

It’s the biggest shopping day of the year for retailers and shoppers in the U.S. We have all seen the images of people lining up for days in advance of huge sales that only happen once per year. We have also seen the crazy videos of people fighting over items, and the mass crowds in stores that make you wonder if it’s worth the trouble. The sales numbers suggest that people in the US (and increasingly, in Canada) believe the crowds and line ups are worth the deals. 

It’s Becoming Increasingly Popular in Canada....For years, Canadians have planned cross border trips to the US to take advantage of shopping deals. Even taking the exchange rate into consideration, making the trip is often worthwhile.

However, in recent years, Canadian retailers have begun to fight back, in an attempt to prevent Canadians from spending their money outside of the country.

Many major retailers in Canada now offer Black Friday deals to keep Canadians home – essentially creating another similar shopping day, comparable to Boxing Day. With the ability to shop online, Black Friday is now more popular than ever in Canada and increasingly popular in other countries around the world.

We invite you to shop our Black Friday event, from now until December 31st, 2014.

Discounts are available from 15 to 70% on unique and desirable items including beautiful silver jewelry, gemstones, scarves, shawls, pashminas and wraps, as well as our lovely African wildlife sculptures.

Origins of Black Friday

Black Friday is the Friday following Thanksgiving in the U.S, which is always the fourth Thursday in November. This means the actual date often varies each year by a day or so. The term “Black Friday” is not new. Its origins date back to the 19th century, however, the current use of the term dates back to 1961 in Philadelphia. The terminology and concept spread gradually over the years and eventually developed into today's sales extravaganzas! For an insight into an African Thanksgiving celebration, please read our blog.

To gain a competitive edge, retailers have continued to push the envelope and have begun to open earlier and earlier.

While the norm was once 6am on the Friday after Thanksgiving, stores are now opening on Thanksgiving as early as 8pm. Shopping has also extended into a weekend event, as retailers now hold sales all weekend and even have exclusive sales only available online.

Where Else Is Black Friday Held?

In recent years, Black Friday has begun to spread outside of North America, perhaps because of the influence of the Internet. Other countries, and multinational organizations, seeing the success of the event, are now holding Black Friday sales around the world. Global companies such as Apple and Amazon have been leading the charge. Today, Black Friday sales are now promoted in many countries, including:
  • United Kingdom
  • Australia
  • Brazil
  • India – known as Friendship day, which is held the first Sunday in August
  • China – known as Singles Day and is an online only sale
  • Costa Rica (known as Viernes Negro)
  • Romania
Much like in Canada, Mexico is also embracing the shopping event. Each year, El Buen Fin, is held as a weekend of shopping discounts. In Spanish, it means “the good weekend.” Apt name, in our opinion! In Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea, they hold “White Day,” which is recognized exactly one month after Valentine’s Day – a celebration that has been recognized for over 30 years. And you thought Black Friday was only a U.S. event! Are you planning on taking advantage of the shopping deals this Black Friday? Are you planning on visiting the store in person or do you plan to take advantage of some of the online deals that will be available? Just a quick reminder that we are extending free shipping* from now until December 31st.


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Help Stop Poaching In Africa – What You Need to Know

Most people have probably heard about the issues with poaching in Africa, and you may have even seen some of the images in National Geographic or on the Internet or television. What most people fail to realize, though, is how brutal and serious an issue poaching actually is.

Illegal wildlife trade is a $19 billion per year industry – something that is causing some of the most endangered species on earth to reach critically low levels. Without action, many of these species could become extinct a lot sooner than you think.

Putting Poaching in Africa into Perspective – Recent Poaching Statistics
  • In 2013, 1004 rhinos were killed in South Africa alone. 
  • If poaching continues at the current rate, there will be no rhinos left in the wild by 2025.
  • Even though the ivory trade was banned in 1989, last year, poaching levels have returned to those of the 1980s.
  • 25,000 elephants were killed in Africa last year – this equates to 3 elephants every hour, every day.
  • At the turn of the 20th century, chimpanzees numbered between 1 and 2 million . . . now there are estimated to be fewer than 300,000 remaining in the wild. 

A New Approach to Catching Poachers – The Analytical Model of Poaching Behaviour in Africa. While many studies believe that technology is the solution, the University of Maryland’s Institute for Advanced Computer Studies has taken a different approach. They have developed the world’s first analytical model of poaching behaviour in Africa. The model has found that rather than trying to find the poachers, it’s more important to find the prey. Once the animals are identified in the wild, rangers can be sent out to the region to protect them against poachers. Read more about the model and findings from the project: http://www.umiacs.umd.edu/about-us/news/research-tom-snitch-featured-uk-telegraph

The issue with animal poaching is not an isolated topic. In fact, Hollywood star and environmental activist, Leonardo DiCaprio, has teamed up with Netflix to produce a film/documentary titled Virunga to create more awareness for this issue. The film follows a group of rangers at Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo as they attempt to protect endangered gorillas from poachers. “Films like Virunga are powerful stories that are a window into the incredible culture and natural diversity of our world, the forces that are threatening to destroy it, and the people who are fighting to protect it,” says DiCaprio in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.

The film will be released in theatres in New York and Los Angeles on November 7th. It will also be available on Netflix.

WATCH THE MOVIE TRAILER: http://www.netflix.com/WiMovie/80009431 LEARN MORE ABOUT THE FILM: http://virungamovie.com/

Zawadee Founder, Mustafa Salemwalla and his wife, Farhat, with renowned primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall at a recent event


Jane’s work today focuses on inspiring action on behalf of endangered species, specifically chimpanzees. Her institute also includes community-centered conservation programs in Africa, including sustainable development projects that engage local people as true partners. To support the Jane Goodall Institute and to help fight the illegal bush meat trade and illegal poaching in Africa and help protect chimpanzees, gorillas, elephants, rhinos, and more, you can make a donation here: Donate to the Jane Goodall Institute Please remember that Zawadee donates 2% of all sales of our African Wildlife products (carvings, sculptures, masks, etc.) to the World Wildlife Fund and The Jane Goodall Institute to help them protect species at risk.

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The Magnificent Serengeti Migration: African Wildlife

Commonly referred to as one of the great wonders of the world, the migration of African wildlife over the Serengeti is one of the most beautiful things to see in Africa.

The Serengeti wildebeest migration is a movement of vast numbers. The wildebeest are accompanied by large numbers of zebra, gazelle, eland and impala along their journey. The groups of animals move in a similar pattern throughout the year, making it a continual process as they are constantly looking for fresh land to graze and high quality water sources. 

Zebras are African equids, related to the horse family. Their distinctive black and white coats come in different patterns unique to each individual zebra. Zebras are a social herd animal but, unlike their close relatives - horses and donkeys - have never been domesticated.

 Wildlife is frequently the subject of African artwork and crafts, as in these lovely African Zebra Masks....The actual time of the phases of the migration vary based on the rainfall patterns in Africa for a given year; however, there is a general timeline and pattern that is followed. The good news is you can actually observe the migration. Because of the somewhat predictive nature of the various animals and their migration patterns, thousands of people from around the world visit Maasai Mara National Reserve each year to get a glimpse of the famous Serengeti migration. Check out Expert Africa's interactive map showing the migration month by month.

The Wildebeest Migration: An Animation

We think you'll enjoy this great animated representation of the migration patterns of the Wildebeest by Go2Africa Safaris. If you have an interest in Africa (and safaris!) subscribe to the Go2Africa YouTube channel. Lots of great videos and top notch information.

The Wildebeest Migration by the Numbers

  • 1.4 million wildebeest, 200,000 zebra and 350,000 gazelle migrate in a clockwise fashion. 
  • The migrating wildlife travel 1,800 miles each year in search of rain-ripened grass.
  • Wildebeest calving occurs late January through mid-March when over 80% of the female wildebeest give birth over a period of a few weeks. An estimated 400,000 wildebeest calves are born during this period.

Migration Is Dynamic and Different Each Year

One of the common assumptions about the migration patterns of the Serengeti is they follow a circular route and are always moving forward. This is not the case. Migration patterns are not always a continuously forward motion in the same direction. Directions and patterns change frequently, something that makes seeing the migration in person somewhat of a challenge. According to Ultimate Africa Safaris, “They go forward, backwards, and to the sides; they mill around, they split up, they join forces again, they walk in a line, they spread out, or they hang around together. You can never predict with certainty where they will be; the best you can do is suggest likely timing based on past experience. You can never guarantee the Migration one hundred percent.”

This adds to the allure of the migration. It’s a dynamic process, and no two years are ever the same. National Geographic has produced a wonderful video which explains The Serengeti Migration beautifully. “In reality, there is no such single entity as ‘the migration.’ The wildebeest are the migration – there is neither start nor finish to their endless search for food and water, as they circle the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem in a relentless sequence of life and death. The only beginning is the moment of birth” says acclaimed East African author and photographer, Jonathan Scott.

Predatory Threats

The migratory animals do not go unchallenged during the migration. There is no shortage of African carnivores that eagerly anticipate the presence of wildebeest. Predators such as lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas and many others eagerly await the migration each year.

Phases of the Wildebeest Serengeti Migration

There are four main phases of the wildebeest Serengeti migration:
  • Phase 1 (February – March) This is the birthing period, with all pregnant mothers giving birth over a few weeks’ period.
  • Phase 2 (April – June) The wildebeest head west toward the bush land of Grumeti Reserve.
  • Phase 3 (July – September) The wildebeest head north toward Maasai Mara in Kenya to open plains.
  • Phase 4 (October – January) The wildebeest head back south slowly toward the birthing area to start the cycle over again.
   Please remember that Zawadee donates 2% of all sales of our African Wildlife products (carvings, sculptures, masks, etc.) to the World Wildlife Fund and The Jane Goodall Institute to help them protect species at risk.
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The Tuareg: Nomadic Silver Craftsmen of Africa

Tuareg culture is rich in history and tradition. A semi-nomadic Berber people, the Tuareg inhabit a large area of the middle and western Sahara and travel throughout Algeria, Mali, Niger and as far as Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and Nigeria. In fact, Tuareg people don't perceive the Sahara as one desert, but as many. They call the Sahara "Tinariwen" which means "the deserts". The Tuareg language is spoken by more than 1 million people. Extraordinary silversmiths, the Tuareg produce some of the most unique silver jewelry  in the world. 

Shopping for a unique piece of jewelry that will turn heads? Well, look no further. Zawadee carries a large collection of beautiful and elegant silver jewelry handcrafted by the Tuareg people. Check out our unique collection of eclectic silver necklaces, pendants, and earrings. 

The Fascinating Life of the Tuareg People

The Tuareg are a fiercely independent people who maintain their Berber ways. They produce stunning jewelry in bold and simplistic designs - very geometric and symmetrical. They believe that silver is the metal of the prophet and, in fact, Tuareg women often have a superstitious fear of gold and will not wear it.

Silver is a part of every family history, as it holds both symbolic and real value and is used for barter and trading.  Unique jewelry made from silver and often combined with other items collected along their travels, such as gemstones, rare woods and other fascinating materials.

The Tuareg People in Pop Culture

  • In 2003, Volkswagen named their new SUV line the Touareg (a common alternative spelling).

  • The 2005 film Sahara features a group of Tuareg

  • Spanish author Alberto Vázquez-Figueroa's novel Tuareg (1980) sold more than 5,000,000 copies and was adapted into a 1984 movie starring Mark Harmon entitled Tuareg – The Desert Warrior

Much of the Tuareg peoples’ cultural and artistic identity and resourceful and inventive spirit is expressed in their jewelry, as well as, leather and metal saddle decorations and swords. However, they have become known globally for their skill in jewelry making, primarily for their silver jewelry designs.

Necklaces worn by a Tuareg woman often depict her history and the story of her people, as well as her city of origin.

Each piece of Tuareg silver jewelry has special meaning. Each piece contains a message and historical symbols, which are passed down from generation to generation. Showcasing the intricate use of design in their silversmithing techniques, our Azel Collection will be sure to have that "must-have piece" to set off your fall and winter wardrobe. A wonderful choice as a holiday gift, or - what the dickins - to please yourself!


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The Green Belt Movement: Making A Difference One Tree At A Time

“When we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace and hope.”

The Green Belt Movement (GBM) is an environmental organization, based in Kenya, which seeks to empower communities to conserve the environment. It was founded in 1977 by Professor Wangari Maathai as an offshoot of the National Council of Women of Kenya (NCWK) in response to the requests of rural Kenyan women. These women noticed a number of environmental issues that were posing a threat to the African environment, namely the drying up of streams, unsecured food supplies.


The vision of the organization is to create “a values-driven society of people who consciously work for continued improvement of their livelihoods and a greener, cleaner world.” This vision drives their mission of creating better environmental management and community livelihood through tree planting. 

How much of an impact has the Green Belt Movement had to date?

Here is a look at GBM by the numbers:
  • Number of GBM-supported community tree nursery groups 4,034

  • Number of indigenous seedlings raised by the community nurseries annually – 8,000,000 seedlings

  • Average number of trees planted in critical watershed areas annually – 5,000,000 trees

  • Number of tree planting sites in critical watersheds across Kenya – 6,500

  • Total number of trees planted since 1978 to date – over 51 million

  • Average survival rate – 70%

The Green Belt Movement’s Three Pillars of Activity:

  1. Community Empowerment and Education: GBM believes that education and community empowerment is important to help people understand the connection between a healthy environment and human activities.
  1. Planting Trees: GBM focuses on planting the right trees in the right locations to have a maximum impact on the ecosystem, helping to preserve the environment for years to come.
  1. Advocacy: GBM uses a grassroots approach to help local communities maintain a healthy and fruitful environment. However, GBM also has an international presence and advocates for environmental policies to protect forest ecosystems in sub-Saharan Africa and the Congo Basin Rainforest Ecosystem.


About Wangari Maathai – The Founder of the Green Belt Movement

“We cannot tire or give up. We owe it to the present and future generations of all species to rise up and walk!”

Wangari Maathai was internationally recognized for her advocacy for human rights, democracy, and environmental conservation. She was the 2004 laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize, author and former chairman of the National Council of Women of Kenya. Her work at the council led to the concept of community-based tree planting and the original concept for the Greenbelt Movement. Maathai passed away on September 25, 2011, but she left us a lasting legacy and made great impact on the Kenyan environment and community. Her awards, achievements and personal affiliations are too many to list. Her dozens of honorary degrees and awards are a testament to her impact on the environment.

Want to learn more about Wangari? Check out her publications:

  • The Green Belt Movement: Sharing the Approach and the Experience

  • Unbowed: A Memoir

  • The Challenge for Africa

  • Replenishing the Earth: Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World

Purchase copies of her books here NOTE: If you click through to purchase any item from Amazon, a percentage of the sale is donated to the Green Belt Movement.

DONATE to the Green Belt Movement

There are a number of ways to get involved with the Green Belt Movement and support this great cause:
TAKE 15% OFF Entire Order
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The History of Boxing Day: South African Day of Goodwill

Similar to Black Friday in the United States, Boxing Day, which is held on the day after Christmas, is one of the most popular shopping days in Canada and in other parts of the world.

It’s a day where deal seekers are out en masse, looking to take advantage of huge sales. It’s a day where millions of Canadians get up early, it’s almost impossible to get a parking spot at your local mall, and there are line ups to get into stores – all in hopes of getting a smoking deal on a TV, buy that gift they didn’t get for Christmas, or to cash in their gift cards. Similar to Black Friday, online sales are increasingly becoming a popular way to shop on Boxing Day. In fact, some retailers are starting Boxing Day sales the week before Christmas! However, the Boxing Day we have come to know today is very different from its origins. The following takes a look at the history of Boxing Day.

Why "Boxing Day"?

While the exact origin of the name is not entirely clear, it’s believed to refer to the Christmas Boxes that were given to servants, tradesmen, and the poor by employers and the wealthy on the day after Christmas. Other interpretations of the name date back the Middle Ages and late Roman/early Christian era, where boxes were placed in areas of worship to collect donations for the poor and to collect special offers for the Feast of Saint Stephen. 

“The best clue to Boxing Day's origins can be found in the song ‘Good King Wenceslas.’ According to the Christmas carol, Wenceslas, who was Duke of Bohemia in the early 10th century, was surveying his land on St. Stephen's Day — Dec. 26 — when he saw a poor man gathering wood in the middle of a snowstorm. Moved, the king gathered up surplus food and wine and carried them through the blizzard to the peasant's door.”

Modern Boxing Day

Boxing Day has been a national holiday in England, Canada, Ireland and Wales since 1871. While it used to be a day of charity, it is far from it today. In addition to it being a popular shopping day, today it has also become known as a day of sport. In England, it’s known for annual fox hunts and football, while in Canada it is known for the World Junior Hockey Tournament.

Is Boxing Day celebrated in other countries?

Outside of Canada and the UK, Boxing Day is commonly celebrated in many other commonwealth countries, each with a unique spin on how they celebrate the day:
  • Australia: The day is a federal holiday. However, in South Australia, the day is referred to as Procrastination Day.
  • Bahamas: The day is celebrated with a street parade and festival called Junkanoo.
  • New Zealand: The day is celebrated the same as in Canada.
  • South Africa: Known as the Day of Goodwill, it is a public holiday that most people spend at the beach.

Boxing Day is not formally celebrated in the United States. It is a public holiday in a number of southern states, but it’s widely referred to as Day after Christmas Day.

Watch for our Boxing Day Specials - up to 70% off selected items!

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Serengeti Migration: Examining the Path of the African Zebra

Each year, millions of Serengeti wildebeests migrate across the African continent. But they are not the only ones. A number of different groups of animals move throughout Africa in a similar pattern each year, with the goal being to find water to drink and land to graze. Zebras are one of the largest of the secondary groups that are part of the Serengeti migration each year. In fact, more than 200,000 zebras participate in this amazing journey each year! 

About African Zebras

Zebras are African equids and are relatives of the horse family. They are easily identifiable by their black and white striped coat. Even though zebras may look the same, each zebra actually has a unique pattern. Like many other African animals, they are a social herd of animals, sticking together naturally, something that also helps them ward off predators such as lions, hyenas and many others.

Zebras Migrate Based on Environmental Factors

As outlined on eyesonafrica.net, zebras (and other African animals) “do not follow a calendar schedule, rather, they follow cues from the environment to tell them when the rains have reached an area and they then move there to take advantage of the fresh growth of grasses. The migration timing and pattern varies year to year.” The great news is that you can experience the migration of zebras in person. Imagine being able to see thousands of zebras congregated in the same place, grazing, caring for their young, and seeing many different African animals interact in their natural habitat. It would be a trip you won’t soon forget!

Longest Migration Among African Mammals

National Geographic recently published a story that found, “A population of zebras surprised biologists by making a more than 300-mile beeline across parts of Namibia and Botswana—the longest big-mammal migration ever documented in Africa.” While this migration has been observed during consecutive years, it is still not of the scale of the Serengeti Migration, as it involved only a few thousand zebras. However, “the animals cover more than 300 miles (500 kilometers) in a straight-line, up-and-back journey across Namibia and Botswana. (In the Serengeti, the animals meander more before circling back, so their feet touch more ground, but the distance between the zebras' two destinations is greater.)”

Why Wildebeests and Zebras Migrate Together

African travel experts have identified four main reasons why zebras tend to migrate with wildebeests:
  1. Since wildebeests are short grass grazers, and zebras tend to shear off long grass, zebras essentially cut the grass in new areas, allowing wildebeests to pick up the tailings.

  2. Zebras have better eyesight and hearing, essentially acting as an alarm for wildebeests when predators approach.

  3. Wildebeests have the ability to “smell” water, making them an ideal travelling partner for zebras.

  4. Zebras tend to have better memories and are more cautious travellers, something that helps wildebeests identify and fend off potential dangers.

Please help us to help species at risk

Please remember that Zawadee donates 2% of all sales of our African Wildlife products (carvings, sculptures, masks, etc.) to the World Wildlife Fund and The Jane Goodall Institute.
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Soapstone Carvings by the Kisii People of Kenya

African carvings have become very popular décor items in recent years. With people taking more of an interest in global art forms, and with the rise in popularity of abstract sculptures, this type of art is popping up in homes, offices and galleries across North America.

 A particular type of African carving that is particularly alluring are handmade soapstone carvings from Kenya. While soapstone has been used for years as a carving material, it is the Kisii stone that is most desirable.

Origins of Soapstone Carvings by the Kisii


The stone is named after the Kisii people of the Tabaka Hills in western Kenya—the only place it is found in the region. The soapstone is a metamorphic rock that consists of the mineral talc. Also commonly referred to as steatite, it is known for being soft and easy to work with. While the stone was primarily used for domestic purposes such as basketry and pottery, it is now used to create handmade carvings for export. The Kisii people originally used soapstone to carve pots to carry fat, which was later massaged into the skin for protection against the sun and other elements. For many families, these soapstone carvings are their primary source of income as they sell their work in malls, galleries, markets and shops across Kenya.

Kisii Stone Stone - has become preferred by local artisans because of its softness and ease of carving. It occurs in a number of beautiful natural colours ranging from a light cream to black as well as yellows, red, lavender and grey. The color is dependent on the minerals present in the soapstone. The soapstone is used to create both functional items and works of art.

It’s used to carve:

  • Vases
  • Trays and plates
  • Bowls and pots
  • Decorative sculptures

While carvings traditionally feature animal figures such as elephants, rhinos and other African wildlife, carvers today also create contemporary abstract figures, bookends, candle holders, and many other figurines

Natural 10-inch Tall Soapstone Family Sculpture - 2 Parents 4 Children

The Soapstone Carving Process

The carving process is quite involved, and it often includes multiple people. Here are the steps involved in crafting soapstone carvings:
  1. Mining: Local miners dig a large pit by hand, about 50-75 feet in diameter, using picks and shovels. Heavy machinery is not used.
  1. Selection: Not all stone that is mined is used for the carvings. The miners sort the stone and select high quality materials for the carvings. Selected materials are then immersed in water to make it easier to carve.
  1. Carving: Carving is done by hand using a variety of tools such as knives, machetes, chisels, and files. Carvings are most frequently done by experienced carvers, with younger carvers often observing and practising their skills to refine their expertise.
  1. Sanding: The carved soapstone is washed and smoothed using sandpaper. This is most commonly done by women. Multiple grades of sandpaper are used to achieve the proper finish.
  1. Decoration: Depending on the type of piece being crafted, the piece is either left in its natural state, or it is decorated by adding color and design elements.
  1. Polishing: The final step is treating and polishing using oils, creating a professional finish and a shine that brings out other subtle features of the carvings.

Entire families are commonly involved in the soapstone carving process. Men perform the carving and shape the piece. Men or women perform the sanding tasks, and then women do the washing, drying, waxing, and polishing to give the soapstone carving its glossy finish. 

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Benefits of Bamboo Fabrics: How Bamboo Becomes a Scarf, Shawl or Cowl

While many people commonly associate bamboo with home décor items, mats, furniture and different types of art, there is a growing trend in the fashion industry as more and more clothing designers are using bamboo fabric rather than cotton. Our bamboo scarves and cowls are a great example!

Bamboo Cowl

While bamboo clothing items such as scarves, shirts and sweaters have been overlooked for years, it is starting to gain in popularity with designers and consumers who are looking for something unique. It is even used for rugs and towels because the fabric is known to dry very quickly.

Bamboo Cowl
We offer a variety of hand-knit bamboo scarves, shawls and cowls. The organic bamboo textiles are created by the talented artisans of the small country of Swaziland at the hilltop farm and weaving studio founded by Rosa Roques. Special color recipes are used in the dying of the fibers making the woven textiles truly unique. They are perfect for year round wear and are both functional and fashionable. They are available in 7 beautiful colors, allowing you to match them with any outfit.

The Process of Turning Bamboo into Textiles

Here are the steps to organically turn bamboo into a textile:
  • Bamboo is harvested. Only the leaves and soft pith inside the bamboo stalks are used.
  • Bamboo is crushed using heavy rocks or plywood boards.
  • The crushed bamboo is placed into a container with water and natural enzymes.
  • Let the bamboo sit until it takes on a pulp like state.
  • Drain the bamboo and allow it to dry.
  • Cut the bamboo fibres into smaller pieces.
  • Place pieces into a pressurized vat with water and amine oxide (a nontoxic solvent).
  • Heat mixture until bamboo fibres dissolve.
  • Pour the liquid through a filter. This will create long textile fibres.
  • Place the fibres in a mixture of water and amine oxide. Wait for the fibres to become soft and flexible.
  • Rinse fibres.
  • Hand dry and comb out the fibres, separating them in the process.
  • Spin fibres into thread by hand. You can also use a spinning wheel.
  • Knit (or weave) the thread to create the fabric.

There you have it! The organic and environmentally-friendly process to turn bamboo into a fabric that can be used to create almost any type of clothing. For designers, bamboo fabric is easy to use, and very versatile, allowing them to create almost any type of garment. It is naturally soft, and it takes dye colors well. In fact, it is actually softer than cotton and is commonly compared to cashmere from a softness perspective.

Benefits of Bamboo Fabrics

There are four main benefits of using bamboo as a textile:
  1. It's antibacterial: Bamboo fabric is naturally antibacterial, and these properties do not diminish when washed.
  1. It's eco-friendly: Bamboo fabric is environmentally friendly. From the manufacturing process being easier on the environment, to bamboo requiring less water and energy to harvest, its quick regrowth, and because it does not require pesticides, it has much less of an impact than other materials used for textiles.
  1. It absorbs water well: Bamboo fabric naturally absorbs water. It can help to repel water, also, making it ideal for outdoor clothing, and it will help you stay cool and dry during the summer when it’s hot.
  1. It’s hypoallergenic: The fabric can be worn against the skin without the negative reactions that people experience when they wear other fabrics. Bamboo fibre is naturally smooth, making it less likely to irritate people who have reactions to other textiles..
Bamboo is also becoming popular in the clothing industry because of its positive environmental impact. It’s the fastest growing woody plant on earth, it can grow in diverse climates, helping to restore regions that have suffered from degradation, and it produces a great deal of oxygen, helping to control emissions and reduce carbon dioxide.
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