You can find colourful paintings of typical African scenes – both
traditional and contemporary – almost everywhere you travel in Africa.
While curio shops can charge a handsome fee for such paintings, you can
negotiate more reasonable fees from talented local painters selling
their artworks alongside the roads or in flea markets.
2. African Masks
An African mask displayed in your living room back home makes a
dramatic memento of a trip to Africa! Tribal masks are more than
decorative in African culture, playing a deeply symbolic role in African
rituals and ceremonies. Many believe that the wearer of the mask
absorbs some of its power – some African masks are beautiful, some
scary, so choose yours carefully! You can buy these masks from art
dealers and direct from the craftsmen in cultural markets.
3. Beaded African fashion accessories
Africa is known for its brightly coloured beadwork. Beaded earrings,
bracelets, necklaces, and sandals make fantastic gifts for the fashion
conscious – who can wear these fashion accessories with pride, too. Many
beadwork fashion accessories are made by local African women, as part
of social upliftment projects.
4. Laugh it Off t-shirts
Africans are renowned for their great sense of humour – perhaps it’s
our way of dealing with the particular challenges we face as a
continent. If traditional African curios don’t do it for you, why not
choose a travel gift with a gutsy social message which sums up
contemporary local culture? Laugh It Off
emblazons t-shirts and other merchandise with parodies of people,
politicians, and brands found in Africa – with the aim of making a
statement, effecting social change, and having a good laugh.
5. Wire toys
Industrious Africans, unable to afford expensive shop-bought toys,
craft toys out of discarded wire. Nearly every South African child has
owned at least one of these delightful wire toys – be it a motor car,
airplane, bicycle, or radio. Wire toys make wonderful decorative pieces
in the home, too.
6. Wooden carvings
You can’t travel to Africa and not purchase a wooden carving.
Traditional artists carve depictions of African game, like giraffes,
elephants, hippo, rhino and lions, while contemporary artists prefer to
craft abstract carvings. African wooden carvings range in scale, to
small pieces which fit in your hand luggage, to massive structures which
take several men to move. Buy these from craft markets, curio stalls,
or from eager entrepreneurs selling their wares along the roadside. Most
airlines will allow you to check or carry on your wooden gift,
depending on the size.
7. Woven baskets
Not only beautiful and practical, traditional African baskets are
handwoven from the leaves of iLala Palms, found alongside streams and
rivers. Sadly, this is an art form which is becoming increasingly rare –
which makes finding the real thing an very special African travel gift,