How to Make Your Own Kwanzaa Decorations

One of the principles of Kwanzaa is to exercise your Kuumba — or creativity. Making your own decorations for Kwanzaa is one way to put this into practice. Here are some ways to get creative for Kwanzaa:

  • Spruce up inexpensive finds: Use craft stamps and stencils with African motifs to decorate items you buy premade at a discount or import store. Look for woven baskets, mats, wooden trays, pottery, chargers, and cups. You can find these items pretty inexpensively at several bargain stores and then spiff them up to match your theme with a little paint.

    Transform pieces of pottery, vases, trunks, or metal trays with transfers of African art. Find postcard sizes of African art or artifacts and make transfers.

  • Making your own kinara: You can make a kinara out of any wooden item. Try using a birch log, a piece of drift wood, or even a 2-x-4-inch board cut to size and perhaps sanded and painted black. You can find screw-in-type candleholders at hardware stores, and, if all else fails, drill holes where the candles will need to be placed. If you’re working on a flat board, candleholders can be glued to the board with wood glue. Use your imagination. In a pinch, you can even use painted 2-liter soda pop caps screwed into wood to make candleholders for a child’s personal kinara.

If you live in an apartment, dorm room, or other small space where dining room tables are out of the question, purchase a large straw mat to place on the floor as your mkeka. Place all your Kwanzaa items on it just as you would a table and throw plenty of cushions made of woven straw or leather onto the floor for your guests to plop down on and enjoy some sweet potato pie, benne cakes, and other food that’s good for the soul.

If you want to take your decorating a step further, here are some other tips that may come in handy to help you celebrate:

  • Hang the Bendera (African flag) on a porch or patio to welcome guests or to signify the seven days of your celebration. Flags of all sizes can be used in small spaces that need just a small touch of African heritage.

  • For a modern touch, grab three art canvas boards at a local craft store and paint them red, black, and green ¯ one color for each board. Prop them up on a mantel, or hang side by side (representing unity) to display the colors of Kwanzaa. This color-blocking technique is a simple yet bold effect that demands attention in a smaller space.

  • Make a wall hanging or a table runner out of kente fabric, a traditional African printed fabric in silk or cotton, or other African-inspired prints to jazz up otherwise lifeless spaces. Make a few throw pillows to place on sofas or window seats to coordinate with your other kente fabric accessories.

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