A new and wonderful project started when one day I walked into the kitchen just as the chef finished cracking the unique Kilimanjaro oyster nuts for his famous sauce. I looked at the empty shells with their rich texture and immediately knew what I was going to create from them...
My Kweme earrings. On the left from the hard inner shell, and on the left from the outer inner shell.
My kweme earrings

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.

oyster nuts
Oyster nuts, Kweme, a Kilimanjaro treasure

What's so special about the nuts’ shells?

On the day I stepped into the kitchen of the guesthouse that became my Kilimanjaro 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.

Kweme nut outer shell on the left and inner shell on the right.
Kweme nut outer shell on the left and inner shell on the right.

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).

Macho is demonstrating how to crack the nuts

Ella (me)

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 try at kweme earrings
oyster nuts outer shell half way to becoming 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.

Alfonsina

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 making Kweme earrings
The talented Alfonsina
Alfonsina's first earrings came with a sweet reminder for me. Both earrings don't have to be identical! It was so refreshing for me, as a Western and a perfectionist... It doesn't stick out in the picture, but one earring has yellow and orange beads, and the other all orange beads. 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.

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.

Victor

Victor Kinyaiya and the Kweme gourd with the family growing it on their farm. Oyster nuts are a heritage super food!

Victor Kinyaiya is the guesthouse manager and the one who started the permaculture project of reintroducing the Kweme nuts to the Kilimanjaro. Baraka Kinyaiya is his younger brother, and an extraordinary talented artist, whose art is his profession.

Baraka

I knew Baraka 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's gorgeous Kweme earrings
Baraka's gorgeous Kweme earrings

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.

And- in my next visit I will be selling them in Israel! Click here to choose your own pair of Kweme earrings.

For more of Baraka’s art go to the next post.

Kweme gourd
Thank you Kweme, Thank you Kilimanjaro, Thank you Mama Africa

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.

Aview through the banana farms and into the valley of shimbwe village on the slopes of the kilimanjaro
My beloved Kilimanjaro home
Ella

Ella

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About Me

Hi, I’m the Wandering Goddess.

My life in a nutshell – B.A. in anthropology, a life changing one year journey in East Africa at 26, followed by Shamanic initiation, tribal wisdom & femininity studies, then, giving in-depth workshops for women and girls, tribal storytelling to children… And at 50, coming back to my Mama Africa to bring you more inspiration on our original way of life.

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