African Crafts

Written by Pete Nicholls
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Various important holidays, unique to the African community, are celebrated in addition to other national holidays. These include Kwanzaa, which lasts from December 26 to January 1 and in no way substitutes for Christmas. Other special occasions are Juneteenth (June 19), Martin Luther King Day (January 15) and Black History Month (February in the U.S., and October in the UK). In addition, Africa Day is celebrated on May 25.

Educational and fun books give children the opportunity to color in the many countries that comprise the continent of Africa. Each country has its own national flag, and children will probably enjoy coloring and creating them all to hang around a classroom. Carved animals representing the continent can be painted. Softer toys can be woven or sewn to reflect traditional African values of family and community, responsibility and courage.

In some countries, including Morocco, the "khamsa" or good luck hand is well known. This can be created by placing handprints on paper and coloring them. Another approach is to cut the hand symbols out of aluminum foil and glue decorative patterns to them. Quizzes about each African country can be made fun by bringing in typical dolls, drums, clothing, jewelry and animal photos. Maps large enough to draw in the immensely long rivers of Africa add to the sense of recognition and belonging in the world.

Kwanzaa--First Fruits of the Harvest

Black, red and green are Kwanzaa's colors. Kwanzaa is a wonderful opportunity to practice crafts. Making, not buying, as many of the items as possible is encouraged. Paper candles, seven of them, can contain surprise candies or other treats, but this is not a requirement. Regular candles work just fine, but the candleholder should not be confused with the Jewish menorah. Striking place mats can be woven from straw, cloth (with an African design), or construction paper if children are making them. Ears of corn (representing the children in the household or the community), fruits and other vegetables are also arranged on the place mat, along with a unity cup. Handmade gifts are exchanged with family members.

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