International Women's Day, March 8: How the Day is Celebrated in Italy and in Burkina Faso March 8, 2018 07:56

Happy March 8,  Women's International Day Y'all! 

It is so interesting to recall how Women’s International Day is celebrated in the countries I lived in. As a teenager in Italy, I remember women handing each other yellow and sweet smelling freshly picked mimosa branches and twigs on women’s day. March eight is the Festa delle Donne! (literally translated as the women’s party – in the sense of having fun, not in the sense of political party of course). You would see women proudly holding, waving and sharing their branches in the subways, at the market, on the buses, or in the streets.

March 8 was chosen to celebrate and recognize women worldwide for their achievements whether it be artistic, cultural, economic or political. International Women's Day first emerged from the activities of labor movements at the beginning of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe.

In Burkina Faso, West Africa, where I lived more recently, March 8th is such a big day! It’s actually an official holiday so government offices, other offices, and businesses are closed. I was pleasantly surprised to see how special this day is in the country of the people with integrity (the literal meaning of Burkina Faso). The Burkina Be women eagerly await for this special day weeks and sometimes months ahead of March 8th. The women plan some special get-together and special activities such as parties and concerts for that day. For example, women of the same church would have a special activity. Most importantly, women must wear their special Pagne (a traditional cotton clothing with colorful prints worn in much of West Africa) for the International women’s day. I repeat women MUST wear their pagne. It has become a social norm to have your pagne outfit. You are a bit out-casted if you don’t have one and don’t wear your women’s day outfit on March 8th.

.Early morning in one of the unpaved and wide streets of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

Every year, a different design is printed on cotton fabric and made into pagnes. The pagnes are then sewn into different designs of women’s dresses but all with the same print, same fabric, and same colors. The Ministry of Women’s Affair would be setting the (national) design for the year’s Women’s international day’s pagne. So every woman throughout the country would have their matching pagne. How beautiful it is to see those women on their motorcycles, riding as amazons, all with the same vibrant colorful pagne, singing, dancing and chatting on every corner of Ouagadougou. Only the First Lady was allowed to wear a different color pagne but with the same design.


A young woman with her March 8th, International Woman's Day outfit in the streets of Ouagadougou, Capital of Burkina Faso

A young woman selling in the streets of Ouagadougou with her International Women’s Day (March 8) pagne on

It’s no wonder Burkina Faso celebrates its women’s day so vibrantly and in such a special way. One of its former leaders, and one who is revered and admired by many, was a strong advocate for the rights of women. That was Capitaine Thomas Sankara, one of the greatest leaders that Africa has known. If you understand French language and are interested in Africa, I would recommend you take the time to watch the video in link below. It gives the story of Thomas Sankara, a man who was and still is such an inspiration for many African, young and not so young, people. Actually, I found a version with English subtitles so even if you don’t understand French you would still be able to follow: Here it is

As an illustration of his boldness, Thomas Sankara, on International Women’s Day, asked that the traditional family roles be reversed for one day. He asked that men do the market shopping instead of women. This was a way for men to understand better and to appreciate the hard work that women do to take care of a household.

Women and mothers in Burkina Faso are strong and do work really hard. Each time I think about the hard work they do and the tough environment they work in, I give them three times my hats off… The scorching sun, the heat, the dust, very limited resources, no water, and… malaria!

So, in celebration of all women worldwide, and with a very special thought to Burkina Be women, Soava is very proud to carry a line of colorful West African fabric necklaces, handmade by women in Burkina Faso. We see the energy, the strength and the optimism of Burkina Be women in the vibrant colors of these necklaces. Do you?

Love from,

Soava  Copyight 2018 ©

A Photoshoot of Our Raffia Bags and Raffia Clutches in New Orleans Garden District August 30, 2016 08:14

We recently had a photo shoot of our raffia bags in the beautifully shaded streets of New Orleans Garden District.  This area of town is located very close to Zèle and fitted perfectly, both for its convenient vicinity but also for its lush gardens, tall trees, and quietness.

After a bit of anxiety for the weather, we ended up having just enough sunlight to make the shoot.  Eduardo Benitez of Eduardo Benitez Photography was our photographer and beautiful and talented Veronica Lawler was our model.

Soava raffia clutch

New Orlean's philodendrons made a perfect backdrop for Veronica carrying our Myriam raffia clutch.

The hand-crochet texture of our Mombasa raffia bag is revealed further against the trunk of this New Orleans uptown century old tree.

Eduardo really did a great job and I highly recommend him for your fashion-related photography.  You may view a sample of his photographs on his Instagram account at @EBPhotographs.

Copyright 2016 ©Soava

Zèle, New Orleans Local Artisans officially opened its doors! October 5, 2015 16:11

Are you in New Orleans and are you looking for a store where you could find that one-of-kind, unique handicraft or gift made by a New Orleans artisan? Look no further.  Direct your paths to Zèle!  Zèle opened its door in June 2015 and just had its Grand Opening on October 3, 2015.

Zèle is a multivendor marketplace serving as an incubator to local artisans and entrepreneurs while providing shoppers with unique, high quality products. The shop is a great addition to the line-up of eclectic and chic shops along the seven-mile long shopping hub that is Magazine Street.  Zèle is located at 2841, Magazine Street, in the block from Washington Avenue to Sixth Street.

If you are visiting New Orleans you may want to know that the red double deck Hop-On Hop-Off bus stops just one block before Zèle’s location.  Isn’t that convenient?

Zèle features some of the best that New Orleans has to offer in arts and crafts. Owner Stacy Martinez’s vision was to offer a venue where New Orleans artists and makers could continuously offer their pieces for sale in between the monthly or weekly arts and crafts open air events that take place throughout the city.

The shop is located in a brick front building with high-ceiling and cement flooring, which gives the place an industrial yet cool and spacious look and feeling. The white walls let the colors of the art pop up and stand out.  Wooden walls made of up-cycled pallets serve as separators between booths and provide warmth to the displays.

At Zèle, you will find New Orleans-themed paintings, prints, soaps, sweet smelling candles, jewelry, skin care products, children’s clothes, unique furniture, home décor, bead framed art, leather bags, metal and wood art, post cards, New Orleans-themed apparel and T-shirts, and so much more. Come and see for yourself! We bet you have never seen so much creativity concentrated in one single place!

In addition to the local artisans, Zèle also serves as an incubator for entrepreneurs who are getting their business off the ground, like Soava.  At Soava, we are so honored and grateful to be able to offer our products among so many New Orleans talented artists.  Soava carries fashion accessories and home décor made by hand by women artisans across Africa. Soava’s collection currently features products from nine different countries. Soava’s products are made of natural materials such as raffia straw, sisal, cotton, silk, and ceramic.   

We are so blessed to be part of the New Orleans artistic spirit that Zèle is promoting!

Zèle entrance on its Grand Opening day on Saturday October 3, 2015 during the annual Arts for Arts sake on Magazine Street.                                                              Zele New Orleans Local Artisans