On a wet and overcast day in Paris, beneath the Arc de Triomphe, you could hear Angelique Kidjo's haunting voice. Dressed in royal blue with gold circling her neck, she walked through a parted sea of world leaders. Blewu, she sang, her voice bold and unflinching. Blewu. Slowly.
November 11 is Armistice Day in France, a day to celebrate the end of the first World War. At this 100 year commemoration, Kidjo's song was a reminder of the African lives lost and often forgotten.
"Today Nov 11th 2018, I sung Bella Bellow's beautiful song "Blewu" to celebrate Peace and the memory of the fallen African soldiers of World War One in front of the leaders of this World under the Arc De Triomphe," she wrote on her Facebook page.
"Blewu" is a song in Ewe, a language spoken in Benin, Ghana, and Togo. Kidjo, originally from Benin, sang her own interpretation of the song composed by late Togolese singer Bella Bellow. Below are the original lyrics along with a translation.
When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.
It is not rushing that is important, it is making sure. --Maasai people of East Africa
When you see clouds gathering, prepare to catch rainwater. --Gola people
He who is afraid of doing too much always does too little. --Nigeria
When a king has good counselors, his reign is peaceful. --Ghana
He who does not know one thing knows another.
Wherever a man goes to dwell, his character goes with him.
However long the night, the dawn will break. --Hausa people
Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped.
A good leader was once a good follower.
He who refuses to obey cannot command. --Kenya
Little by little that a bird builds its nest. --Nigeria
An anthill that is determined to become a giant anthill will definitely become one, no matter how many times it is destroyed by elephants. --Nigeria
The bird will not fly into your arrow.
There is no distance that has no end.
The popularity of mud cloth (bògòlanfini or bogolan) is growing, but as this video below describes, there is more to mud cloth than its beauty.
When you support African textiles, you are often supporting an entire community.
Watch the video to see how mud cloth is made, and how this artistic process is helping a community fight poverty.
Browse our collection of mud cloth.
Perhaps the most uplifting part of the Olympics each year is the Parade of Nations. Each country enters the arena proudly carrying their flag, and some, like Ghana, come out in high style. Ghana could not be missed.
Their stunning entrance was thanks to the vibrant colors and intricate patterns of kente fabric.
Kente is the most recognized African fabric and is artistically woven by the Asante people of Ghana and the Ewe people of Ghana and Togo. Kente prints like those worn by the Ghana Olympics Team are much cheaper and easier to find than woven kente. (You can browse the gorgeous kente print in the Tess World Designs shop.)
5 things you need to know about kente cloth
1. Kente is woven in strips that are about 10 cm wide. To create a cloth big enough to wear, strips are sewn together.
Image: by vickisee via Flickr CC
2. Kente patterns are not just beautiful; traditionally, each pattern has a different meaning. (Don't worry--we'll share these in a future blog post.)
3. Traditionally, kente is worn for special occasions, draped over the shoulders like a toga for men, and wrapped around the torso and waist for women. Nowadays, you'll find kente in everyday life and used as patterns for hats, shoes, and other accessories.
Image: kente3 by John Nash via Flickr CC
Image: kente57 by John Nash via Flickr CC
4. The origin of the word kente is highly contested. It is not the original word used by any of the tribes who create this cloth. The Asante people call the strip-woven cloth ntama or ntoma, and the Ewe people call this cloth avɔ or ɖo.
5. No matter where you come from, kente will look good on you!
Image: Kente by Utenriksdepartementet UD via Flickr CC
Kente print at Tess World Designs
Browse the shop and choose your favorite kente print at Tess World Designs. Here are just a few:
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you can’t perfect Erykah Badu’s headwrap in three minutes. But if you’re in a hurry, or just learning to wrap your hair, you can create this super-easy “hat wrap” without the blood, sweat and tears.
Step 1: Lay out your square piece of headwrap fabric.
Step 2: Fold the square diagonally, leaving the longest end facing you.
Step 3: Fold up the longest end so you have a rectangular fold a few inches in height. (This rectangle will be the front of your hat wrap. You can increase or decrease this height to achieve different looks.) The wrap should now look like a boat.
Step 4: Pick up the wrap and pull the two long flaps around your head. (The rectangular fold should be facing outward, not against your forehead.)
Step 5: Tie the two flaps together. Bring the triangular piece from the top of the wrap down and underneath the knot. (Or reverse: pull down the triangular piece first and then tie the two flaps over it.)
Step 6: Tie the two flaps into a knot and tuck the ends underneath the wrap.
Are you ready to turn heads?