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Kwanzaa – Brief Introduction by Ebukhosini Solutions

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Celebrating Kwanzaa

An Afrikan family celebrating Kwanzaa

Ebukhosini Solutions

Compiled by Baba Buntu – Executive Director, Ebukhosini Solutions (

Established in the 1966, Kwanzaa is a holiday based on the various “First Fruits Festivals” found around the African continent (Umkhosi among the Zulu, Incwala among the Swazi, Incwala among the Thonga, Odwira among the Ashanti, Eje among the Yoruba etc.). The African American scholar, Dr. Maulana Karenga, together with other researchers, undertook studies to look at commonalities between celebrations around Africa. Out of this research evolved the Kwanzaa holiday which is celebrated 26th December – 1st January by millions of African and African Descendant people around the world. As the holiday draws on pan-African traditions it serves as a unique opportunity for African people – regardless of faith, nationality, language and birthplace – to come together in unity.

The meaning of the word “Kwanzaa” is “the first fruits of the harvest” and derives from the Ki-Swahili language spoken by millions of Africans in Eastern Africa. The significance of the festival today is that, although, many of us are not necessarily farmers, we still need to take stock of what we have produced, achieved and accomplished so far and set ourselves goals for overcoming challenges we are facing in the future. The practices central to the celebration are ingathering, reverence, commemoration, recommitment and celebration. The foundation of Kwanzaa is expressed through seven principles, the Nguzo Saba.

Nguzo Saba articulates seven principles of particular importance to Afrikan communities. The principles serve as reminders of what we need to uphold in order to build ourselves, our families and our communities:

1. UMOJA (Unity)

2. KUJICHAGULIA (Self determination)

3. UJIMA (Collective work and responsibility)

4. UJMAA (Cooperative Economics)

5. NIA (Purpose)

6. KUUMBA (Creativity)

7. IMANI (Faith)


Although relatively unfamiliar with this concept, an increasing number of South African families and communities observe Kwanzaa. Many South Africans have heard of Kwanzaa, but not had the experience of taking part in the celebrations. Through celebrations organized by Ebukhosini Solutions and Global Afrikan Congress – in collaboration with a variety of community organizations – since 2002 an increasing number of people in Gauteng have familiarized themselves with the ceremony and made it part of their annual events calendar.

The origins of KWANZAA in southern Afrika; Celebrating the First Fruits

Excerpts from a research paper developed by Baba Buntu, Ebukhosini Solutions (2005)

“First Fruits Festivals” are celebrated all over the Afrikan continent. These ceremonies, which essentially celebrate the first crops, are significant in that they focus on leadership, unity, achievements and preparations for the future. All over the world Afrikans and Afrikan Descendants today are celebrating Kwanzaa – a modernized version of ancient Afrikan “First Fruits Festivals”. In researching how these celebrations were observed traditionally in southern Afrika, it becomes evident that these ceremonies share common bonds throughout the continent. The following is a brief outline of how the festivals are still observed in the southern region.


UMKHOSI WOKWESHWAMA – The Celebration of the First Fruits
The annual First Fruits Celebration Ceremony (Umkhosi Wokweshwama) is a very important occasion in the Zulu Nation. Traditionally, the Zulu Monarch, King Goodwill Zwelithini, has to eat the first produce and pray to God (uMvelinqangi) to bless the land to produce abundant good food for His people. During this event, young men (amabutho) are invited by the King to participate in different rituals.

What also makes this ceremony very important is the strong belief that it strengthens the King and his Kingdom. The Zulu Monarch uses this opportunity to talk to the Nation, more especially, to young and old men, focusing on issues such as HIV/Aids, moral regeneration and fighting poverty. Furthermore he addresses men on how they should conduct themselves as heads of their families and as role models in their communities. He also encourages them to lead their communities in agricultural practices in order to fight poverty.

In 2004 the Umkhosi Wokweshwama celebration was organised by the KZN Department of Education and Culture at Enyokeni Royal Palace, KwaNongoma. It started on 11th December. The ceremony of the King having talks with his men was staged as workshops conducted in collaboration with local government and traditional leadership structures.


INCWALA – The Kingship Ceremony
One of the most important festivals of the Swazi Nation is the Incwala or “Festival of the First Fruits”. This ceremony, which essentially is a Kingship Ceremony, brings the

country together to gain the blessing of ancestors, sanctify the kingship and celebrate the beginning the harvest season. Incwala is observed in December/January and features two festivals: Little Incwala (2 days) and Big Incwala (6 days).
Incwala is held in December/January of each year. At a time of the new moon preceding the event, officials visit the main rivers of Swaziland and return to the Nations ancestral home, on the shores of the Indian Ocean near Maputo, to gather sea water. At this time the King goes into seclusion.
Every Swazi may take part in the public parts of the Incwala. The key figures are the King, Queen Mother, royal wives and children, the royal governors (indunas), the chiefs, the regiments, and the “bemanti” (the „water people‟).

The Marula Fruit
Other “First Fruits Festivals” in Southern Afrika coincide with the ripening of the Marula fruit. The Tsonga people call the kernel of the Marula “Food of the Kings”. The Northern Sotho people see the tree as a gift from the spirits and regard it as sacred. The tree is dioecious, meaning there are separate male and female trees. Hence the Marula tree is also associated with fertility.
Some South African names for First Fruits celebrations:
 Zulu: Umkhosi
 Swazi: Incwala
 Tswana: Dikgafela
 Sotho and Tsonga: Loma
 Venda: Thevuola
 Bhaca: Ingcubhe
 Mphondo: Ingxwala
 Sepedi: Go-loma Thotse
 Ndebele: Inxwala

7 Kwanzaa Principles

1) Umoja/Unity
To strive for, and maintain, unity in the family, community and nation. To realise that, despite our differences, we are ONE people and share a common heritage and legacy
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 problems, and to solve them together
4) Ujamaa/Cooperative Economics
To build and maintain stores, shops and other businesses in our communities, and profit from them together. To realise that cooperation serves our mutual benefit
5) Nia/Purpose
To make our collective vocation the building and developing our community in order to restore Africa to her 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 hear in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, our continent and the righteousness and victory of our struggle for justice

Celebrating Kwanzaa, Music and Dance

Celebrating Kwanzaa, Music and Dance

Program Outline
12.00 Drum call; Expressive invocation
Afrikan Play Skool; Activities for children (upstairs)
Nubian Youth Club; Activities for youth (upstairs)
12.40 Invocation; Procession and devotion
12.55 Opening; Welcome and orientation
13.05 Welcome words
13.10 Song; Traditional Hymn
13.15 Orientation; Introduction to Kwanzaa
13.30 Prayer; Inter-denominational prayer
13.45 Remarks
14.00 Libation; Acknowledging our Ancestors
14.10 Unity Cup; Passing of the Communal Bowl
14.15 Harambee; A unifying call for togetherness and continued struggle –
14.20 Kwanzaa Song; Introducing the Kwanzaa Song
14.30 Statements; Inspirational reflections on the theme
14.50 Candles; Lighting the 7 Candles, Affirming the 7 Principles
15.10 Children; Honoring our Children & Youth
15.15 Greetings & Reasoning; Sharing of brief wise words
15.30 Acknowledgement
15.35 Closing Statement
15.45 Afrikan Pledge; A call to build the Afrikan Nation
15.50 Announcements; Upcoming events during or after Kwanzaa
15.55 Blessing; Opening of the Communal Table –
16.00 Food; Sharing from the Communal Table
———————————- BREAK (Marimba band + DJ) ——————–
16.30 Photo session – take group photo of the Kwanzaa Family

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