Ostrich-egg basket for Easter?

Off the grid
August 14, 2012
Air Namibia explores new skies
August 14, 2012
Off the grid
August 14, 2012
Air Namibia explores new skies
August 14, 2012

Text Jackie Marie

My kids are grown up and at college now, so I no longer do the holiday decorations and fun and games I used to when they were younger.

I grew up in the States with all the usual cutesy holiday stuff, such as Easter-egg hunts, dyeing and decorating eggs, and stocking up on multi-coloured jellybeans, chocolate bunnies and yellow marshmallow candied baby chicks. My siblings and I loved it (although I never liked the jellybeans).

After moving to Namibia I found interesting ways of making my childhood Easter holiday traditions fit right into my life here. My favourite addition to an Easter basket became a huge, decorated ostrich egg!

Going to church on Easter Sunday wearing my Easter bonnet and a new, brightly coloured dress was something my sisters and I looked forward to every year. In Namibia, that part of Easter is the same. Regardless of their religious beliefs, many Namibians go to church in something new and bright on Easter Sunday.

For me, the fun part of Easter is still preparing the Easter basket. But I made certain adjustments to adapt to life in Namibia.

Step One: Get the basket

In Namibia, baskets come in a huge variety of qualities, colours and styles. People still use them for necessary everyday things. I use the Oshiwambo-speaking people’s baskets for my Namibian-style Easter basket.

This kind of basket is usually used for sorting mahangu (a kind of pearl millet) in the very sandy northern farming areas, after the kernels have been spread across the ground to dry out in the sun. Then the women put the dried kernels in the baskets and shake them super hard. The bits of sand, husks, and other material drop through the weave or migrate to the bottom of the ‘well’ of the basket, leaving the shelled kernels on top. Even after pounding the kernels into flour, it is sifted again by shaking the basket. These baskets are not very deep, but are very wide, dipping towards the middle.

Step Two: Put ‘grass’ in the basket

Back in the States and when we lived in Germany, we used to buy this green, plastic simulated grass to put into the Easter basket. But in Namibia ‘natural’ makes more sense – using plastic grass somehow doesn’t feel right. Instead I use the dried grass that is sometimes used for thatching roofs in the tukuls (huts) in traditional areas. But you must first check carefully that the bugs and other ‘residents’ of the dried grass are out of town before you put it into your Easter basket!

Step Three: The candy and chocolate!

In Namibia a considerable range of chocolates is produced locally. The small squares, circles, triangles and rectangles of sweet chocolate are covered in aluminium foil in many different bright colours. I buy as many as I need, freeze them overnight and put them into the basket. Then I sprinkle dried fruit instead of candy on top. As there are many sugary sweets on sale in the shops in Namibia, you could add some of these too. Fudge that is sold in a shop in a mall in Windhoek, is also great for an Easter basket. Your hips and thighs will thank you if you go there and indulge!

To decorate the basket further, I add a few of the beads and shells used for making necklaces in the traditional ways. Then I scatter the baskets with glitter left over from old Christmas decorations. And for the kids, I add a couple of small toys that I buy at the Namibia Crafts Centre in Windhoek.

Step Four: The Easter EGG!

Instead of using a chocolate bunny as centrepiece in the basket, I use hollowed-out ostrich eggs; and these are great! The eggs are readily available locally from traditional people. Otherwise there are shops in most cities and towns in Namibia where you can buy a plain one already prepared.

We can’t use the watercolour dyes to make them different colours by dipping them into small pots as we did with the boiled chicken eggs we used to paint for our baskets. Since ostrich eggs are so big, we paint them or add glitter, sequins or whatever we want; and, of course, use only one egg per basket.

If you’ve never seen an ostrich egg, you’re in for a big surprise! Compared to a chicken egg, an ostrich egg is like a basketball to a tennis ball. Needless to say, there is no hiding of ostrich eggs to have an Easter-egg hunt. Ostrich eggshells are somewhat fragile, as they’ve been emptied of their contents, and where would you hide something that large to stop the kids from finding them at once? No, the ostrich-egg hunt at our home is on hold.

There is no fixed formula for a fun Easter basket in Namibia. Actually you can make it with whatever you want. But having an ostrich egg as the centrepiece makes Easter come alive in Namibia, and brings back happy memories of Easter baskets gone by.

This article appeared in the April 2012 edition of FLAMINGO Magazine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *