With its roots in the Amercian black nationalist movement of the 1960s, Kwanzaa is a relatively new celebration to South Africa, with this year marking the 17th annual Kwanzaa festival. Established in 1966 by American Black Power activist, Maulana Karenga, Kwanzaa is a celebration of African heritage, which is observed from the 26th December until the 1st January, culminating in a feast and gift-giving.
The name Kwanzaa derives from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza”, meaning “first fruits of the harvest”. Karenga was apparently inspired by an account he read of the Umkhosi Wokweshwama festival where the king blesses the new season’s crop. uMkhosi WokweShwama also recognises and reveres the strength of young men.
At the core of Kwanzaa is a set of principles referred to as Nguzo Saba (the Seven Principles):
- Umoja (unity)
- Kujichagulia (self-determination)
- Ujima (collective work and responsibility)
- Ujamaa (cooperative economics)
- Nia (purpose)
- Kuumba (creativity)
- Imani (faith)
Kwanzaa celebrations are mostly limited to Johannesburg, but there seems to be a growing impetus to celebrate the festival in other parts of the country too, so watch this space! And if you do happen to find yourself in the city of gold these holidays, be sure to add the Kwanzaa festival to your ‘to do’ list!