Monday, January 1, 2018

Kwanzaa: Principles, Foods and Fashions

Kwanzaa: Principles, Foods and Fashions
By Elmetra Patterson
C:\Users\Elmetra Patterswon\Pictures\2009-10 (Oct) Halloween\DSC03314.JPG
Authentic African Attire made by and worn by Elmetra Patterson
made with African fabric from Benin, Africa

Kwanzaa was celebrated this week by many in our community. It is a week-long African Inspired Celebration beginning December 26 – January 1. Kwanzaa promotes self-esteem, hope, pride and dignity. It was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga who delivers a yearly message that is related to the yearly theme which can be found at the official site of  Dr. Karenga stated in one of his messages, “Kwanzaa brings a cultural message which speaks to the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense. Kwanzaa is celebrated by millions of African Americans and Pan-Africans throughout the world African community. The theme for this year is "Practicing the Principles of Kwanzaa: Repairing, Renewing and Remaking Our World”.  Dr. Karenga states in his message for 2017 that the distinguished Martinican/Algerian psychiatrist and revolutionary theorist, Frantz Fanon’s challenges us to “start a new history of human-kind’, to “reconsider the question of humanity”, “turn over a new leaf…workout new concepts and try to set afoot a new human being’. The focus in this year’s theme is to take care of the world. Our ancestors taught that we damage the world and all in it not only by what we do wrong, but also by what we fail to do right. The seven principles, the Nguzo Saba, teach us how we can repair, renew and remake our world and develop strategies to deal with the social and environmental problems that confront us today.

In most places, Kwanzaa is celebrated daily by using one of the Seven Principles, Nguzo Saba (Swahili) as the focus for the day. One is to greet another each day by saying. Habari Gani?  Which means what is the good news? The response should be the principle for the day which starts a conversation.  The Nguzo Saba is as follows:
1) UMOJA (Unity)
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
2) KUJICHAGULIA (Self-determination)
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves instead of being defined, named, created for and spoken for by others.
3) UJIMA (Collective Work and Responsibility)
To build and maintain our community together and make our sister’s and brother’s problems our problem; and to solve them together.
4) UJAMAA (Cooperative Economics)
To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.
5) NIA (Purpose)
To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
6) KUUMBA (Creativity)
To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
7) IMANI (Faith)
To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

As part of the celebration whether it is at home, church or in the community, cultural expressions are the entertainment for the day which include poetry, song, dance and drama.  Food is generally collard greens, curry goat or chicken, sweet potatoes, cornbread and many other foods that are much like southern/soul food. Oftentimes, there is a community pot of food that all gathers around and eat from.

Kwanzaa fashions consist of both African and African American Attire. This writer must admit that I feel most beautiful when wearing African Attire.  In my opinion and many designers, artisans and artists, the African fabrics are the most beautiful in the world.  I, like Ronke Luke-Boone, who wrote my favorite book about fabrics, African Fabrics, Sewing Contemporary Fashion with Ethnic Flare, am fascinated by the textiles and ornamental arts of “native people” around the world.  The intricate details, the craftsmanship, the beauty of the work, and the stories the textiles and ornaments tell intrigues me.  In many indigenous societies in Africa, Asia and South America, the choice of colors and motifs in a textile are not always arbitrary or purely aesthetic; they may have meaning and tell stories of everyday life’s struggles and joys.

Many of us wore African Attire during the 60s – the birth of the “I’m, black and I’m proud days”. For many years I paid little attention to the work of the textile until I moved to California in 1989. I became seriously physically challenged and decided not to close my homegrown dress making business but to create and make African Attire which meant I did not have as many pieces to a patterns as in the European Fashions. The first African wedding I did was in 1994.  My friend/artist, Elaine White and I struggled on the floor of my home to design patterns for this wedding only to find out after our completion that an African man, Emeaba Emeaba, had contracted with McCall Patterns and designed numerous authentic patterns that made life easier for many seamstresses.  Therefore, in the mid 90s African Attire became a permanent member of many of our wardrobes.  It became all that I wore and all that many of my fellow church members wore in Berkeley, CA.  Choirs, ushers, deacons, and clergymen switched their wear to African Attire.  Sundays’ fashions were beautiful fashions from Benin, Ghana, Togo, Mali, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ivory Coast. The most popular African Fabrics: Mudcloth, Kuba, Korhogo Cloth, Fancy Prints, Wax Prints and Kente Cloth. They are Oh So Beautiful!!!!

By Elmetra Patterson

C:\Users\Elmetra Patterswon\Documents\Elmetra Kente Jacket.jpg  c:\Users\Elmetra\Documents\Reggie playng at African Wedding.jpgC:\Users\Elmetra Patterswon\Documents\Elmetra photo green Afrrican Attire.jpg