Take a Tour to the African Safari

Take a Tour to the African Safari

Growing up in the savannah, it has always been fascinating to encounter the odd herd of elephants crossing the road during our family road trips. Inevitably, these encounters evolved into fondest memories as technology transformed our society and the world over time. Jacynth’s idea to weave the 2024 Quilt Africa Block Of The Month around my childhood memories got an excited yes from me. I learnt about the African big 5 and other popular animals listening to tales by moonlight surrounded by cousins, aunties and uncles and grandparents.


Each creature that roams the African plains holds a special place in the hearts and minds of its people, serving as symbols deeply intertwined with the fabric of African heritage. In this blog, we will delve into the symbolism of key animals found in the African safari – the lion, elephant, giraffe, zebra, leopard, and cape buffalo – and how they are used as metaphors in African culture and fabric design.


1. The Majestic Lion: Symbol of Strength and Leadership



The lion, often referred to as the "king of the jungle," is a powerful symbol in African culture, representing strength, courage, and leadership. Its majestic mane and commanding presence evoke a sense of awe and respect, making it a fitting metaphor for the noble qualities valued in traditional society.


The majestic lion serves as a symbol of leadership, with its regal appearance and fierce demeanor inspiring admiration and reverence. Its roar, echoing across the savannah, is seen as a call to action, rallying the pride and instilling a sense of unity and purpose.


In African fabric design, lion motifs are often used to symbolize strength and bravery, with intricate patterns depicting the lion's mane and features adorning garments and textiles. These designs serve as a visual reminder of the lion's role as a guardian of the land and its people, reinforcing the values of courage, resilience, and community.


2. The Endearing Elephant: Icon of Wisdom and Prosperity



The elephant, with its immense size and gentle demeanor, is revered as a symbol of wisdom, longevity, and prosperity in African culture. Its intelligence and social complexity make it a powerful metaphor for the qualities valued in traditional society, such as wisdom, patience, and resilience.


Characterized by its high cognitive ability, the elephant is seen as a wise elder, imparting knowledge and guidance to younger generations. Its ability to thrive in diverse habitats and its importance as a keystone species in the ecosystem make it a symbol of resilience and resourcefulness.


Elephant motifs are often used to symbolize prosperity and abundance, with intricate patterns depicting the elephant's tusks and features adorning garments and textiles.


3. The Overseeing Giraffe: Emblem of Grace and Aspiration



The giraffe, with its long neck and graceful movements, is a symbol of grace, beauty, and aspiration in African culture. Its towering height and elegant demeanor inspire a sense of wonder and admiration, making it a beloved figure in traditional society.


Seen as a messenger of wisdom, the giraffe encourages individuals to reach for their dreams and strive for excellence. Its ability to reach high into the trees to feed symbolizes the pursuit of higher knowledge and enlightenment.


The intricate patterns of giraffe depict beauty and grace which is featured in various garments of different African tribes.


4. The Spirited Zebra: Representation of Diversity and Unity



The zebra, with its striking black-and-white stripes and spirited nature, is a symbol of diversity, harmony, and resilience in African culture. Its distinctive appearance and social behavior reflect the rich tapestry of life found on the African plains, making it a powerful metaphor for the values of unity and cooperation.


The zebra is viewed as a symbol of diversity, reminding us that strength lies in our differences and that unity is essential for survival. Its ability to thrive in diverse habitats and its importance as a keystone species in the ecosystem make it a symbol of resilience and adaptability.


5. The Cunning Leopard: Signifier of Stealth and Mystery



The leopard, with its sleek coat and stealthy movements, is revered as a symbol of stealth, mystery, and independence in African culture. Its ability to move through the jungle with grace and agility makes it a powerful metaphor for the qualities valued in traditional society, such as cunning, adaptability, and resourcefulness.


A symbol of mystery, the leopard's elusive nature and nocturnal habits evokes intrigue and fascination. Its ability to blend seamlessly into its surroundings makes it a symbol of stealth and cunning, inspiring admiration and respect.


6. The Fierce Cape Buffalo: Representation of Resilience and Strength

cape buffalo


The cape buffalo, with its massive size and powerful build, is a symbol of resilience, strength, and determination in African culture. Its formidable horns and indomitable spirit make it a powerful metaphor for the qualities valued in traditional society, such as resilience, perseverance, and courage.

The cape buffalo has ability to withstand the harshest of conditions and defend itself against predators inspiring admiration and respect. Its importance as a keystone species in the ecosystem makes it a symbol of resilience and balance.

Artifacts and pieces bearing the cape buffalo patterns are associated with leadership that has been tested through time.




The relationship between African animals and traditional fabrics goes beyond mere aesthetics; it speaks to a deeper connection between humans, nature, and the cultural heritage of the continent. Just as animals serve as symbols in African culture, so too do the patterns and motifs that are found in traditional fabrics.


For example, the intricate beadwork of the Maasai people often reflects the colors and patterns of the savannah, with designs inspired by the animals that inhabit their land. Lions, zebras, and elephants are frequently depicted in Maasai beadwork, serving as a visual reminder of the deep connection between humans and nature.


Similarly, the symbolic motifs woven into African textiles often mirror the patterns found in the natural world. Whether it's the graceful curves of a giraffe's neck or the intricate markings of a leopard's coat, these patterns serve as a homage to the wildlife that inspires them, forging a link between the fabric of society and the fabric of the land.


Preserving Tradition in a Changing World

In an era of rapid modernization and globalization, it's more important than ever to preserve the traditions and cultural heritage that define us. That is why -- we have chosen the African Safari as our theme for our Block of the Month.


By celebrating the relationship between African wildlife and traditional fabrics, we honor the centuries-old customs and beliefs that have shaped the continent's identity.


As we journey through the African safari, we hope to not only share the beauty of its wildlife and landscapes but also to promote the profound connection between animals, culture, and tradition. In doing so, we pay homage to the timeless wisdom and enduring spirit of Africa, ensuring that its rich heritage continues to thrive for generations to come.


This March, we will be launching our Block of the Month for Quarter 2. We are done with the lion, the giraffe, and the elephant. Check out these fantastic blocks made by @LorraineHunter-Rooks. We will be sharing more challenging patterns to work on and deliver insightful discussions about these wonderful creatures.

lorraine rooks


Learn more about the animals in the African Safari, their symbolism and influence on African culture and life. Discover how these animals evolved into patterns that represent stature, norm, art, and heritage. Plus, get a glimpse of the amazing quilts done by the Block of the Month Members in the First Quarter of 2024!


Join our Zoom discussion and take a tour to the African Safari. Sign up now:



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