Swahili News

Preparing African Baskets for Shipment

Quality control is important to us, and all of our products are checked by many hands before leaving Africa, as they come into our warehouse, and before they are shipped to you.

Here's a quick video of longtime employee TJ and his process of cleaning up a basket. Thanks for watching!

Admiring Baskets at a Market in Senegal

Senegalese craftswomen have excelled at using simple materials - plastic strips and natural grasses - to create baskets of stunning color and variety. Whenever we travel to Senegal (about 2-3 times a year), we work with the women to develop designs that are geared towards a US market.

The domed lid style (above) is a traditional Senegalese shape and requires a great deal of talent to form the lid.

Outdoor markets like this one outside of Dakar offer baskets in every color of the rainbow. The domed lid style (above) is a traditional Senegalese shape and requires a great deal of talent to form the lid. 

Senegalese hampers with modern designs. http://www.swahilimodern.com/

Over the last year, we have been working with the weavers to develop "stair step" and chevron designs. Aren't they lovely? These pictured baskets are samples in progress. 

Which styles do you like the best? Let us know in the comments so that we can have the baskets shipped back and put on the site!

Win Three Sisal Dove Ornaments for Easter!

This sweet set of Sisal Doves adds both meaning and beauty to your Easter celebrations. Handcrafted in Kenya, the doves feature wings and bodies made from banana leaves and fluffy tails made from sisal fibers. Each dove is fair trade and one-of-a-kind.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

One set of birds will be given to a randomly selected winner on 03/18/15. Thank you for entering and checking out our site!

A special thank you to Lucky Contests, Contest Girl, ContestBee, SweepsAdvantage, SweepstakesBug, InfiniteSweeps, OnlineSweepstakes, DoublePrizes, About Contests, Cool Freebie Links, I Love Giveaways, Sandy's Realm, and Pinterest, for helping us to promote for this contest!

Celebrating Easter in Africa

With over 70 million Christians in Africa, Easter is an important holiday that is celebrated in a number of countries. 

Every year, Easter Vigil starts on the preceding Thursday and involves a daily ritual of prayer and song lasting from 3-6 PM. Churches are decorated with butterflies, banana tree art, and Kanga cloth while Christian hymns are sung to the beating of African drums. 

In Ethiopia, Easter or "Fasika" is one of the most revered holidays and is celebrated after 56 day period of fasting where no meat or animal products of any kind are consumed.

After Easter mass, celebrants partake in dances and lavish meals. Both Christians and non-Christians come together to indulge in roasted chicken, goat, and rice dishes. Despite Easter being a religious holiday, it is also regarded as a time of social communion. 

Easter is also celebrated through local artwork, and we are proud to carry many fair trade, African Easter products. For instance, this is a solid-soapstone egg from Kenya:

 Solid Soapstone Easter Egg

These hand-carved soapstone Easter eggs from Kenya are presented in a banana fiber box:

Banana Fiber Box of African Easter Eggs

Angels and doves are also prominent Easter themes, such as these delicate dove ornaments made from sisal and banana fiber:

Wherever your location or religious affiliation is, we wish you a happy Easter season and spring! Thank you for reading and supporting fair trade in Africa. 

An Unexpected Purchase of Antique Makenge Baskets

This week we purchased a large collection of rare, antique makenge baskets from a collector in Zambia. These are very special baskets, often considered collector's items, and have great meaning and history.

The tradition is for new brides in the Upper Zambesi region of Zambia to receive the beautiful yet practical gif of a makenge root basket as a wedding gift. The heirloom is so durable that the same basket can be used and passed down in the family for over 100 years!

Many of the baskets we received will need some repairs, but most are in pristine shape. We can't wait to show them to you!


Once we sort through and repair the baskets, they will be offered on the site. These baskets are highly coveted by designers and make beautiful wall art!

We will of course give our retail customers the first opportunity to purchase one of these exceptional baskets. If you are interested in advance, please email us at info@swahilimodern.com.

Swahili Modern Behind the Scenes

Ever wonder what the day in an African import company looks like? 

This is our warehouse where we have operated for over 15 years. Most days are not quite as dismal as the one pictured, but it does rain in Oregon!

We often receive large shipments of baskets from Senegal. These are some of the latest designs.

Inside, the baskets are stacked sky high.

We inspect every item that comes and leaves from the warehouse. Quality control is a big deal around here.

Down the street, we have a fabulous store at the Fifth Street Public Market.

The store has a famous sale section where you can find great deals.

This is Papa, who was one of our first employees. It's hard not to love this guy.

If you find yourself passing through Eugene, OR, please do stop by and say hello! 

Harry Potter Fans Demand Fair Trade Chocolate

Right before Christmas, Harry Potter fans received the very welcome news that all Harry Potter chocolate products sold at Warner Bros. outlets and through our licensed partners will be 100-percent UTZ or Fair Trade certified.” Here is the letter:

This win comes after four years of organizing, led by the Harry Potter Alliance, by fans who wanted to see the franchise live up to the ideals their fictional hero fought for. J.K. Rowling, Walk Free, and many other activists and organizations took part in the campaign. 

Chocolate and candy are an important part of the “Harry Potter” series. Upon arriving at Hogwart's, Harry is overwhelmed with the abundance of chocolate and sweets available in the dining hall, and chocolate becomes a symbol that Harry has found a new, more nourishing life than the one he had been living at the hands of his abusive aunt and uncle. 

In real life, chocolate play a big role in the Harry Potter empire. Chocolate Frogs are one of the series' signature sweets. Soon, we'll start seeing more labels like this one on the market:


The success of the campaign not only raises awareness of fair trade, but is a powerful source of inspiration that together we can build a most just world. 

For more in-depth info, visit the Harry Potter Alliance


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