Oyster nuts are a tasty and highly nutritious super food, and everything about them fascinates me. Named Kweme in Swahili, it’s definitely another one of Mother Earth’s wonders and a special gift to us. The nuts, that grow inside a kind of a giant green gourd, have a unique connection to the heritage of the Chagga tribe among which I live…
Read the story of Kweme nuts and their return to the mountain here.
What's so special about the nuts’ shells?
On the day I stepped into the kitchen of the guesthouse that became my home, the chef had just finished cracking the oyster nuts for his famous sauce. The shells, still scattered on the counter, caught my attention, and I was immediately wowed by their rich texture.
The softer outer shell has the texture of a beautiful net (on the left), and the relatively hard inner shell has the texture of delicate branching roots (on the right).
The artist that I am immediately announced: earrings!
Needed materials were bought, beads and embroidery threads were taken out of my suitcase, and I began my first attempt at my Kweme earrings.
My first pair of earrings was received with great enthusiasm. It was later added to the demonstration ceremony for guests of the guesthouse on how to crack the nut, which of course opens like an oyster. The demonstration usually takes place after the guests had a chance to taste the chef’s famous Kweme sauce over lunch or dinner…
And that was only the beginning.
First it was Alfonsina who asked to try making her own earrings. Her playful creativity made us all happy, and she even sold some earrings to a guest at the guesthouse! She was moved to tears…
Alfonsina’s first earrings were lovely and lively. and reminded me earrings don’t have to be identical!
It was so refreshing for me, as a Western and as a perfectionist…
When I tried to explain Alfonsina why I was so delighted, she didn’t get why it’s a thing to even want identical, well, anything.
After a while it was time for Alfonsina to spread her wings and go to college, and I had the perfect idea for taking the project forward.
I knew Baraka, a talented artist, would love my new idea since we’ve been already exchanging artistic ideas for a while by then. And as I thought, he loved it.
From the moment Baraka received the shells that the chef has been collecting for us since that day in his kitchen, the magic began. By no time he was making beautiful earrings, taking my initial creative idea to another level!
Baraka is offering his Kweme earrings and more of his art for sale locally, and hopefully soon it will also be possible to order from anywhere else in the world.
For more of Baraka’s art go to the next post.
Life, love, magic
As for me, in a magical way that I couldn’t have planned, I brought to the mountain another use for the Kweme. A use that suits contemporary life, in which Tanzania is one of the leading tourist destinations on the continent, and where tourists look for authentic souvenirs and distinctive art works to take home with them.
I feel blessed to be able to give back for the love of the mountain and his people.