There are seven primary symbols of Kwanzaa that correspond with the
seven days and the special principles associated with them. These
symbols of Kwanzaa serve as instructive and inspirational objects that
represent and reinforce desirable principles, concepts and practices as
reflective of both traditional and modern concepts which evolved out of
the lives and struggles of African-American people. There are
also some secondary symbols which are worth knowing and we have included
in the article below.
1. Mazao (mah-ZAH-oh) - the crops. As the
result of the harvest, Mazao represents productive labor.
2. Mkeka (m-KAY-kah) - the mat.
Mkeka is a straw mat on which all the other items are placed. This is the symbol of tradition and
hence the foundation on which all the other symbols rest.
3. Kinara (kee-NAH-rah) - the
Kinara is a candle-holder which holds seven candles and represents the
original stalk from which we all sprang. For it is traditionally said
that the First-Born is like a stalk of corn which produces corn, which
in turn becomes stalk, which reproduces in the same manner so that there
is no ending to us.
So the Kinara symbolizes the
importance of African ancestors.
4. Muhindi (moo-HEEN-dee) - the corn.
Muhindi represents children and the future; it may also be referred to
as Vibunzi, which means one ear of corn. So the
ear of corn represents the offspring or product (the children) of the
stalk (the father of the house). It signifies the ability or potential
of the offsprings, themselves, to become stalks (parents), and thus
produce their offspring -- a process which goes on indefinitely, and
insures the immortality of the Nation. To illustrate this, we use as
many ears of corn as we have children which again signifies the number
of potential stalks (parents). Every house has at least one ear of corn;
for there is always the potential even if it has not yet been realized.
5. Zawadi (zah-WAH-dee) - the gifts. The
full meaning encompasses gifts given as an act of sharing and a labor of
love. So the
1) the fruits of the labor of the parents, and 2) the rewards of the
seeds sown by the children. Parents must commit their children to
goodness which to us is beauty. We must commit them to good acts, good
thoughts, good grades, etc., for the coming year and reward them
according to how well they live up to their commitments. Goodness,
again, is beauty and beauty is that which promises happiness to the
family and community. For all acts, thoughts and values are invalid if
they do not in some way benefit the community.
6. Kikombe cha Umoja (kee-KOHM-bay chah
oo-MOH-jah) - the unity cup. This represents family unity and community
thus symbolizes the first principle of
Kwanzaa. It is used to pour the libation for our ancestors; and each
member of the immediate family or extended family drinks from it in a
reinforcing gesture of honor, praise, collective work and commitment to
continue the struggle began by our ancestors.
7. Mshumaa Saba (mee-shoo-MAH SAH-ba) -
the seven candles. Mishumaa Saba symbolize the Seven Principles, or
Nguzo Saba. In
other words they represent the Seven Principles on which the First-Born
sat up our society in order that our people would get the maximum from
it. They are Umoja (Unity); Kujichagulia (Self-Determination); Ujima
(Collective Work and Responsibility); Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics);
Nia (Purpose); Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).
Bendera Ya Taifa (The Flag)
The flag of Black
Nationalism symbolizes the struggle of Liberation. The colors of
the Kwanzaa flag are the colors of the Organization Us, black, red and
green; black for the people, red for our struggle, the
blood of our ancestors, and green for the future and hope that
comes from their struggle, reminding
us of the land, life and new ideas we must continue to strive to obtain.
It is based on the colors given by the Hon. Marcus Garvey as national
colors for African people throughout the world.
Nguzo Saba (En-GOO-zoh
Symbolizes the seven principles of Kwanzaa which were developed by
Maulana Ron Karenga. The Nguzo Saba are social principles dealing with
ways for us to relate to each other and rebuild our lives in our own
Karamu The feast symbolizes the high festive celebration that brings the community
together to exchange and to give thanks to the Creator for their accomplishments
during the year. It is held on the night of December 31 and includes food,
drink, music, dance, conversation, laughter and ceremony.
Tambiko Symbolizes the libation by which honor is given in a special way to our
ancestors and a call to carry out the struggle and the work they began. It
clearly symbolizes the recognition of and respect for the contributions of those
before us, our history and the models it offers us to emulate.
Harambee Symbolizes a call to unity and collective work and struggle. The word means Let's
Habari Gani What's the news; what's happening Swahili term used when greeting
Kwaheri Swahili term used as an expression of parting with good wishes and an
expectancy to meet again.