Safari in Africa

African PotHi, my name is Leora Raikin, and my company is African Folklore Embroidery. I am so excited to be a new blogger on the ATG website. I have just returned from four weeks in South Africa,(incredible!). In this blog I will be sharing with you a little about my experieince there, my connection to South Africa and what I do here in Los Angeles, CA.

I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa. my parents and grandmother of 95 stil live there today. My mother sewed our clothes, my grandmother was a milliner and my father made all our toys with his own hands out of wood. My grandfather had more hobbies than I could list. We were encouraged to create and take pride in work created with our hands. Like most African traditions that are passed from one mother to daugther and father to son (in future blog posts I will be sharing some of the art forms of the various tribes passed down through the generations) I was taught African Folklore Embroidery by my mother. Since I have a son, I have passed this art form on to him. When my son was nearly four years old and I was recovering from both the phyiscal and emotional impact of intensive infertilty treatment and several miscarriages, my mom came to visit me from South Africa. She told me I needed to start doing something with my hands, she placed an African Folklore Embroidey design in my hand  and for the next hour she and I sat side by side stitching. It felt so relaxing, I could not remember the last time I had felt this at peace and creative at the same time. I started taking the African Folklore Embroidery design with me whereever I went, folding it up in my purse and taking it out to stitch, when I was waiting, watching my son play soccer or on a train or plane ride.

Wherever I was, complete strangers would come up to me and ask me to show them what I was doing and ask where they could buy a kit with the designs. I loved every time I interacted with someone who wanted to learn African Folklore Embroidery. It allowed me an opportunity to talk about the country of my birth. I found the interest in South Africa refreshing and inspiring. Soon friends would invite other friends to their house for me to show them Leora with Dollsthe designs and teach them how to do African Folklore Embroidery. One friend told another, then quilting and embroidery guilds started asking me to come and lecture and give workshops and my hobby and pasion had grown into a small business. Since all the designs and threads come from South Africa, I feel in some very small way what we are doing is helping create jobs, employment and self esteem for women in Africa, South africa is a beautiful country, but one of extreme contradictions. There  are elements of first-world industry in the midst of third-world poverty. The unemployment rate is at a crisis level of 30% and AIDS is an everyday reality for many of the poeple of South Africa.

Since most people will not have the opportunity to visit South Africa - the airticket is exhorbitant and the twenty-six hour flight very long - I wanted to share with people the wonder and beauty of South Africa. So I am proud of annouce the release of my new book, Safari through African Folklore Embroidery. Essentially, this 88-page color book with over 500 color pictures, takes the reader on a visual safari of South Africa, educating about the wildlife, the art forms of the various tribes , the people and the land, through a needle art medium called African Folklore Embroidery. Each of the designs illustrates some element of life in South Africa. Many of the designs are inspired by the Ndebele tribe, who are famous for thier bead work and beaded dolls. In the pictture you will see me standing with some of the life-size dolls made by the women of the Ndbele tribe. Each doll is unique and symbolic of a different life stage (more about that in another post)

Future blogs will include a step-by-step instruction of how to complete an African Folklore Embroidery design, the basic rules and of course some fun embelishment techniques!  I'll also share stories of my time on Safari in the Umfalozi game reserve, where an elephant almost sat on our car, my time staying at a nature reserve where a monkey stole my toast from the breakfast table, my Giraffevisit to the AIDS charity that I support, KIDZPositive and much more. I look forward to getitng to know you and hearing your comments. I find there is something very special about people who do and create with their hands!  Of course if you have any questions about about South Africa, I will be happy to answer them!

Warm Wishes,



Comments (14) -

jalcumbrack 9/1/2008 8:08:09 PM

Oh my goodness, have you been reading my mind?? I have been looking at some African Designs I stumbled across on some site somewhere. They are wonderful and seem to tell a story as well. I love the colorful artwork! Welcome to the site!! I am very excited that you are going to be a blogger as I so want to learn this!! I hope you are going to post some pictures of your adventures!?

Traveling to Africa has been a dream of mine for so long. I know I will never get there,so hope you don't mind if I pick your brain a bit about it. I would so love to be there among all the animals,yes I am an animal nut. My hubby nick named me after the gorilla lady,as I am always feeding everything!

I can hardly wait to hear of your stories!

Again, Welcome!!


travelbug1237 9/2/2008 1:28:55 AM

Welcome, Welcome!!! What a CHOICE blogger we have with us!!! It will be SOOOO wonderful to see your new designs and techniques. CONGRATULATIONS on your newly published book!! That is TOTALLY AWESOME!!!

   Sharing your early life and then later on how your Mom came and sat with you teaching your African Folklore was very special.

   On a personal note, my husband and I got to spend 6 weeks in Africa on our honeymoon...much of it in Johannesburg although we did go and visit some villages, Victoria Falls and game preserves. I LOVED the giraffes especially and there was such a special rhythm there far away from the city- that is hard to explain...but very unique and special.

We loved all the animals ( except when we accidentally got between a mother Rhino and her baby....yikes... The land and the people, their music, art, carvings and dance will be forever etched in our minds.

  I also loved to eat dried kudu!!! Yum!!!- my favorite!!!

Speaking of tribes, which one has the sign of beauty with the women's 2 front teeth missing?

   If there is anything I can do to help with your cause for 'kids' please do let me know.

 Once again ...the warmest of welcomes!!!


Cathy in Oregon

You are so refreshing and inspiring, thank you for this informative blog.

Most likely, I will never get to South Africa.  I want to hear more of all the things noted in above.  

I will watch for every blog and enjoy all the new things you are about to share with us.  We are the ones who are blessed.


tourlady522 9/3/2008 7:58:56 PM

Welcome to Annthegran and blogging.

I look forward to seeing more of your African Folklore Embroidey designs and learning how to do them.


Wow-I'm so excited to learn more about So Africa and its folkart.  I love the rich colors and designs I've seen and will be looking forward to seeing and learning more.

Is your book available through ANG?  It sounds wonderful.  I love learning about the women who pass on traditions of art and craft to the next generations.  I hate to see those things getting lost in the rush to "advancement".  So thanks much gor your help in preserving the traditions.

I'm looking forward "hearing" more from you!

SunRai Pat

What a wonderful blog. I love hearing about all the different places, as you say, most of us will never get to Africa, but we can go through you.

Welcome to the forum.

I myself came from France and visited my father's country (which technically does not exist anymore) Yugoslavia. It was beautiful and sad at the same time.  

Looking forward to "seeing" you again.


serenemachine2 9/4/2008 2:13:49 PM

Welcome to the ATG Blog site!!!  My niece lives in Swaziland so real or not, I feel a little kinship!!  Can't wait to see some of what you do and look forward to reading more about your history and that of your family  Thanks for sharing yourself with us.

Look forward to experiencing Africa thru you.  As retired military I miss seeing different places & all.  While stationed in Panama I learned how to make the "mola's" that the Kuna Indians made & I love learning different forms of art.  Thanks for sharing.  Sherry

How wonderful to share you experiences. I know South Africa well. It was my home for 31years and my children and grandchildren live in Johannesburg. My husband and I returned to the UK in 2006. We are returning "home" for a holiday in November to see our new granddaughter born in June.Will your book by available in the UK?  Can't wait to hear more of your journey.  Hamba Khale!

it was so wonderful reading all your comments, thank you so much, i enjoy having you on safari with me!

best leora Raikin

yes the book is available thru ANG



I feel so privileged to LIVE in South Africa, in a small town outside Pietermaritzburg.   I visit Umfolozi Game Reserve  (where a giraffe amost sat on your car) every year when I holiday in St Lucia, which is not far from the Mozambique border.  Your embroidery is WONDERFUL -  so characteristic of what I love about my country and its people. I will definitely look out for your book . All the people who say they would like to visit - I can only encourage you.  You will find that your currency converts very favourably into  ZAR and that makes us a most affordable holiday destination.   mandyc29  

jaynewhittaker 10/19/2008 12:32:42 PM

Hi there, I too am very priveleged to LIVE in South Africa.  I live right by the sea in Durban and take every opportunity to visit the game parks in and around our area.  I too encourage everyone to visit this wonderful land.  We have an abundance of wild life, flora and spectacular mountain ranges that add to the flavour of our country.  Very affordable for those of you thinking of travelling.  


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