Yao Ming, best known for his 7'6" height and NBA career, has turned into one of the world's most powerful animal activists.
Yao’s transformation began in 2006 when he was waylaid from the basketball court with an injury and he met with staff members from WildAid, a San Francisco-based charity. WildAid persuaded the man who began his career with the Shanghai Sharks to join their campaign to save the world’s actual sharks by pressing the Chinese people to give up their beloved shark fin soup.
Amazingly, through a series of TV commercials and countless public appearances, Yao convinced his fellow Chinese countrymen that eating shark fin soup is not a sign of sophistication but an act that is wiping out some of the ocean's most elegant and vital creatures. Today, sales of shark fins in China down by 50 to 70 percent (wow!).
In 2012, Yao visited Africa and became impassioned with saving rhinos and elephants from the raw reality of poaching, a trade that is largely supported by Chinese demand. The carving of elephant horn ivory not only has deep roots in Chinese history, but demand has exploded in recent years due to the nations booming economy. In the past three years alone, about 100,000 elephants have been poached for their tusks.
A documentary screened in China in August and scheduled to be presented in the US in November shows the usually collected Yao choking back tears as he stands above an elephant’s rotting carcass, its face brutally mangled to remove its tusks. Visiting the "Ivory Room" at the Kenya Wildlife Service was also a sobering experience.
Today, Yao's efforts to end elephant (and rhino) poaching includes more public appearances and commercials (beware: some graphic content), aiding elephant orphanages, and joining the efforts of The Yao Ming Foundation with WildAid, Save the Elephants, and the African Wildlife Foundation.
“Before [visiting Africa], it was more of a number for me — how many tons of ivory, how much money comes out of this business. Sometimes the number is cold,” he said. “After you visit Africa, it is very unique. I felt that I built some kind of special connection with the animals.”
Hilariously, Yao also commented he had also connected with Africa because “many animals there are bigger than me."
We can't express enough admiration and support for Yao's efforts. He is working against powerful forces: deeply embedded traditions, big money on both sides of the trade, and even NRA supporters here in the US who want ivory-handled rifles. But this big man with an even bigger heart might just be the right person save some of the world's most special creatures.
We love this action-packed video of a single mongoose fighting off four lions! The video was filmed in Masai Mara in 2011, but just recently released. Be sure to watch the video with volume on to hear the narration.
The determination and boldness of little mongoose is inspiring and showcases the wild beauty of this amazing reserve in Kenya.
We are fortunate to carry Percussion Xylophones by world-famous musician and master xylophone maker, Christopher Doozie. Despite his humble, outdoor workshop in Accra, Ghana, Doozie makes some of the most highly desired xylophones in the world. You can find his xylophones sold at US museums and even used in the Broadway production of The Lion King.
Doozie is proud of his craft and shares his trade secrets in this ten minute video. We get a first-hand look at the making of these amazing instruments that Doozie crafts using only gourds, wood, and twine.
Doozie also plays a different sized xylophones to demonstrate their varying sounds. It is a joy to hear this master musician play an instrument made with his own hands, and we are left in appreciation that these traditional Ghanaian instruments have stood the test of time and are still gracing the world with their peaceful, joyful music.
Our Brass Safari Wine Stoppers were recently picked up by Anthropologie and, to our delight, sold out more quickly than expected. Since that time, the few remaining wine stoppers that we have on the site are also selling at a rapid pace, which we found to be surprising since the stoppers that we shipped to Anthropologie did not bear our brand name. A quick stop by Google Analytics shows that people are arriving at our site by searching for "Anthropologie wine stoppers." Clearly Anthropologie has a very committed following of shoppers!
But the fun does not stop there. A little more internet sleuthing revealed that the stoppers are now being sold on Ebay, some to the tune of $25! These Ebay sellers must have purchased the bottle stoppers in-store (for $12 a piece) then waited for them to sell out before listing them online.
While we would like to think that these South African stoppers are selling based on their own appeal, the power and reach of Anthropologie's brand is clearly the driving force behind this wine stopper frenzy. We hope to one day have a similar customer following based on trust in our good taste and unique product selection, which have been the two factors that have established Anthropologie as a trendsetter.
In the mean time, we urge you to pick up a wine stopper - at $8 - before the Ebayers snatch them up!
A cherished sport on every continent, soccer is finally gaining a large fan base in the US. This year's World Cup is drawing more fans than ever, with 25.2 million people tuning in to watch the US vs Portugal game. The height of US viewership at the 2010 World Cup was 19.4 million.
As I write this, like most Americans right now, I have the US vs Germany game playing in the background. Even though I am not a hardcore soccer fan, the game is incredibly exciting. Two bars across from my office are teeming with jubilant fans, all drinking their liquid lunches and ooh'ing and ah'ing with every move. There is an energy in the air and a sense of nationalism.
Adding even more joy to the occasion,the Senda soccer balls used for the World Cup are Fair Trade Certified. How great is that? These limited edition balls are designed only for this Brazil World Cup and are a great tool to raise awareness for Fair Trade.
At Swahili, we also have a small Fair Trade contribution to make to the World Cup: our Spark Plug Soccer Star has an uncanny resemblance to midfielder - and dreaded heartthrob - Kyle Beckerman!
You can pick up your own mini Beckerman at http://www.swahilimodern.com/collections/recycled-art/products/spark-plug-athlete-sculptures
Thanks for your support and go Team USA!
Lulu Life Shea Butter is first-press, cold-pressed shea butter made by hand in Sudan using organic lulu nuts. Valued at $30, this coveted "skin miracle" moisturizes and transforms your skin, making it softer and more even in tone over time. The shea butter is created using traditional Sudanese methods in order to safeguard all the natural, bioactive benefits of Grade A shea butter.
We are hosting this special contest in honor of Mother's Day, so that two lucky winners can give Mom the gift of radiant skin! Two winners will each receive one 3.3 oz tub of Lulu Life Body Butter. While you can use this emollient butter on your body, we prefer to use it on our face at night so that we wake up feeling and looking beautiful :)
Gain up to seven entries to win! The contest will begin on April 21st at 5 PM and end on April 28th at 4 PM, and is open to all US residents.a Rafflecopter giveaway
If you live in the DC area, be sure to visit this year's famous Folklife Festival, where Kenya will be a main feature. This free festival is held outdoors on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., between the Smithsonian museums. The dates of the festival are June 25th-June 29th and July 2nd-July 6th.
According to the Festival's website, "visitors will be able to interact with exemplary craftspeople who work with everything from clay to soapstone to recycled materials, learn about important fossil discoveries by taking part in a model dig site from the Great Rift Valley, run with Kenya’s Olympic athletes, dance to both traditional and contemporary music from many regions of the country, discover how Kenyans live among and work with some of the most magnificent wildlife on the continent, and experience Kenyan life in the United States."
"All of this will take place in venues and spaces that reflect the creative and dynamic experiences of the Kenyan people, whether they live in urban or rural, coastal or inland environments."
Sounds amazing to us! And knowing the Smithsonian's high standard of quality, this will be an absolutely beautiful production. Please do visit if you get the chance and be sure to send us your photos!