Mama Africa

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Hello Familyyyyyyyy!!  Let’s go ahh-WAYYYYYYYY
Soli’s trademark tempo always hung on her last syllable.  She dragged it out in a cheerful manner, as though telling us to grab on and get ready for the ride of our lives.  The 24 of us had only just packed onto our “chariot” of an armoured truck so we weren’t used to it yet, so we just quietly smiled back at her like the well trained Westerners we were.  She laughed and off we went.  Not much could phase this sassy chick who had spent years traveling the African bush.
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NORTH
 
We headed north, out of Capetown and into A-F-R-I-C-A.  AFRICA!!!!!! The idea of Africa enchanted me from the very first second I heard of it. My imagination ran wild with ideals of tribal life, rugged and rampant bush, and wildlife so abundant that humans might as well not exist.  Tarzan wasn’t a bad dream either. 
 
It took me almost 20 years from those very first dreams to actually step foot onto our mother continent.  20 years since I first scoured my Nana’s encyclopaedias and National Geographic collection for everything I could absorb on mama Africa.  20 years of learning, listening and waiting.  Until one day I wasn't waiting any more. 
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The road stretched before us and my eyes with it.  I yearned to get lost there, to discover Africa – her beauty, her nature and most of all, her spirit.  Fields, deserts, mountains, rivers, dunes, and balboa trees all rolled by in a beautiful immersive reel that was genuinely soothing to the soul.  You may have seen all of these before, but never like this.  Never under the vastness of the African sky.  Never with lions roaming nearby.  Never after meeting men who walked across their countries as a rite of passage.  Your senses feel it and your words will never do it justice, this indescribable and overwhelming sense of freedom. 
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Few places can live up to 20 years of expectations, Africa did. 
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Some days into our journey throughout Southern Africa, after we had been subjected to reveal ourselves to the group, taught how to properly set up camp and scolded for not cleaning it up well enough, Soli had basically become our adopted mother.  We learned she actually was a mother, to two beautiful children in Vic Falls who lived with her mother.  She told us stories of growing up there, regaling us with encounters with elephants and telling us of all the art and crafts they made there.  Little did I know then that I would end up ditching the truck some weeks later to accept her invitation to go experience her home for myself.
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 But today we were still on the truck, setting up camp under a lone tree deep in the desert.  And it was her birthday! So naturally we went all out, which while you are bush camping and have no access to stores means we sang as loud as we could, crafted her a necklace out of what we had and made her dance. 
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And in that moment we connected to the heart of Africa. 
On this night, under the stars, together, we celebrated life – our new mama’s and each other’s as we had all been brought together by this incredible and powerful continent. 
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It’s this power, this overwhelming place and sense of connection that I knew I needed to celebrate and to share through Kalisi.  When we began to create what is now the Soliwe print we recalled how vibrant she is, how much she knows her beautiful home and how bold and strong (and hilarious!) she is.  The Soliwe print we created is a literal dedication to this amazing woman, to our mama and our guide who, to us, remains one of Africa’s most incredible, strong and beautiful queens to this day.  We love you Soli.
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Sunset fish river canyon south Africa
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