Four Festive Seasons: Kwanzaa

Four notable annual winter festivals with similar secular and religious origins often coincide in December. Today, we celebrate a comparatively new holiday, Kwanzaa (1966 A. D.)—or “First Fruits,” a week-long celebration of African and African-American cultural heritage.

Alongside Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, and Christmas, these diverse festive holidays evoke time-honored universal values through feasts, gift-giving, decorations, worship, and music. This presentation of select festival holdings in the University of Virginia’s Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library is curated by Reference Librarian Regina Rush with contributions by Research Archivist Ervin Jordan and will continue over the holiday season to rekindle treasured holiday memories—and optimism—during these stressful times.

Kwanzaa Is A Way of Life That We Celebrate!, is the creation of Amos Kennedy, a renowned African American printer, book artist and paper maker. Kennedy is most noted for using his printed posters as a medium to voice his social and political commentary. This beautifully adorned 56 x 76 mm miniature book is crafted in an accordion style fold with African Kente cloth covering each board.

The text is flanked on each side by Ghanaian Adinkra symbols of the Akan People. To the left of the text is the Adinkra symbol Bese Saka, which translates as “a sack of cola nuts” and represents abundance, wealth and unity.  The cola nut was a major cash crop in Ghana before cocoa became the main cash crop. The heart-like Sankofa symbol on the right is from the Twi language of Ghana and translates as “go back and get it,” reminding us of the past as a guiding force in planning the future.

Amos Kennedy, Kwanzaa Is A Way of Life That We Celebrate! York, AL: Amos Kennedy, 2000. 
McGehee Miniature Book Collection in the Small Special Collections Library (McGehee 00899)




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *