Swahili News

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


January 11, 2015


2015 › Kenya ›

How Menstrual Cups Are Changing Lives in East Africa

A popular product in the last five years in the US, the menstrual cup is simple, long-lasting device that is bringing a new way of life to women and girls in Kenya where the average cost of sanitary pads can is nearly a day's labor. Because of this financial barrier, many women resort to alternative methods of management, including leaves, newspaper, rags, mud, and cotton. Also, girls in Kenya will miss an average of 4.9 days of school each month because of her periods, adding up to around 20 percent of the school year. 

Fortunately, Femme International is hard at work distributing silicone menstrual cups in Kenya and the positive impact is immediate. Safe and sanitary, the menstrual cup is allowing women to stay healthy and does not sacrifice her ability to participate in work, school, or daily activities. 

You can donate a Femme Kit to girls in need and read more about the issue at:


Win an African Banana Fiber Nativity!

Artisans in Kenya and Uganda use the fiber of banana palm trees to form the figures in this all-natural, African nativity scene.

The star-topped box transforms into a stable for Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. Surrounding the holy family are three wise men bearing gifts, a lamb, and three shepherds playing musical instruments are also represented. Ten figures in total are included, each an impressively handcrafted sculpture.

Retail value is $36. One nativity will be given to a randomly selected winner. Contest runs from 1:30 PM on 12/11 to 1:30 PM on 12/19.

Thank you for entering and checking out our site!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

December 11, 2014


Pope Urges Shoppers to Shop Consciously

Pope Francis asks shoppers to not buy products which may have been made by modern-day slaves, no matter the cost savings. In the outline of his speech to be delivered on January 1st, the Pope will restate his belief that consumers should stay clear of "items which may have been produced by exploiting others."

This message is not just for consumers. The Pope also warns that businesses "have a duty to be vigilant that forms of subjugation or human trafficking do not find their way into the distribution chain."

While the Pope's statement is not explicitly in support of fair trade practices, his message rings true with the principles of fair trade. These principles include creating opportunities for economically and socially marginalized producers, paying fairly and promptly, and supporting safe and empowering work conditions. 

We think Pope Francis is just wonderful and appreciate his forward-thinking stance on some of the most important - and least discussed - topics of modern day life. And, as a business, we are happy to be grounded in fair trade and we are also happy to have you as a customer and participant in this process!

Pictured below are some of our Ghanaian craftswomen making baskets in their front of one of their homes. Acting as independent producers who earn a fair wage and are free to choose their working conditions, these women are just one example of the happy hands and faces supported by the practice of fair trade. 

December 01, 2014


2014 › Fair Trade ›

25% Savings on Fair Tuesday (and other great deals!)

Do you know about Fair Tuesday? It's a day devoted to ethical shopping, especially in response to the Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This special day falls on the first Tuesday of every December and is an opportunity for holiday shoppers like you to show your support for fair trade, ethical, and eco-friendly brands.

And...it's also an opportunity to find some great deals! All of your favorite fair trade companies will typically host a promotion, and FairTuesday groups them together for you on their Facebook page.

This year, Swahili Modern is delighted to offer 25% off of everything on our site on Fair Tuesday. All you need to do is use the code FAIR25 anytime on December 2nd, 2014. 

Here's a montage at some of the other amazing deals offered tomorrow. Click through to be taken to the page.

 Thanks for your support and we hope to see you tomorrow!

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