Category Archives: The Crops – Mazao

Symbol of African harvest and reward of productive and collective labor.

Kwanzaa Symbols

Kwanzaa has a number of key symbols that are used as artifacts to teach, remind and inspire us in the application of Kwanzaa principles.  The basic symbols used to celebrate Kwanzaa are:

Mazao (mah-zah’-o) are the Crops which represent African harvest and acknowledgement of productive labor.

Mkeka (m-kay’-kah) is the Kwanzaa Mat which represents a foundation of our tradition and history.

Kinara (kee-nah’-rah) is the Candle Holder which represents continental Africans as our roots.

Muhindi (moo-heen’-dee) is the Corn which represents our children and our future.

Mishumaa Saba (mee-shoo-mah’-ah sah’-bah) is the group of Seven Candles which represents the Kwanzaa seven principles (Nguzo Saba).

Kikombe cha Umoja (kee-kom’-bay chah oo-mo’-jah) is the Unity Cup which represents the principle of unity as the basis of all Kwanzaa principles.

Zawadi (zah-wah’-dee) are the Gifts which represent the commitments made and kept.

Bendera (bayn-day’-rah) is the Flag which is a supplemental symbol that represents the people (black color), the struggle (red color) and the future and hope (green color).

Nguzo Saba (en-goo’-zo sah’-bah) Poster is the printed display of The Seven Principles and is a supplemental symbol.

Additional symbols of African culture and heritage are kente cloth and mud cloth.

Kente cloth has its origin with the Akan people of Africa. It is a royal and sacred cloth worn only in times of extreme importance and was the cloth of kings.

The meanings of the colors in Kente cloth are:

  • black—maturation, intensified spiritual energy
  • blue—peacefulness, harmony and love
  • green—vegetation, planting, harvesting, growth, spiritual renewal
  • gold—royalty, wealth, high status, glory, spiritual purity
  • grey—healing and cleansing rituals; associated with ash
  • maroon—the color of mother earth; associated with healing
  • pink—assoc. with the female essence of life; a mild, gentle aspect of red
  • purple—assoc. with feminine aspects of life; usually worn by women
  • red—political and spiritual moods; bloodshed; sacrificial rites and death.
  • silver—serenity, purity, joy; assoc. with the moon
  • white—purification, sanctification rites and festive occasions
  • yellow—preciousness, royalty, wealth, fertility

Mud cloth is the traditional cloth of Mali and is called bogolan or bògòlanfini.  While traditionally worn as clothing, mud cloth is now being crafted into many different types of items including handbags, scarves, passport bags and coats.

Symbols are powerful tools that help our conscious and sub-conscious mind release the energy needed to turn thought into action and creation in our physical world.  We can use the Kwanzaa symbols to give the principles energy and action during the holiday and every day.

Harambee!  Let’s all work together!

Editor, My Daily Kwanzaa

References:  “Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture”, by Maulana Karenga,   University of Sankore Press, Los Angeles, California.  1998.   ISBN 0-943412-21-8.  The meaning of kente cloth colors from “Kente Cloth“, African Journey.

Video: Youtube. Expert Village, “Kwanzaa Traditions & Customs : Kwanzaa Symbols”

More information and supplies that can be used to practice and celebrate Kwanzaa can be found at the My Daily Kwanzaa Store.


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