SAWITU - South African Women in the United states (and Canada)

Posted by Zantel du Toit on

I’d like to believe my journey started somewhere in my childhood, growing up in South Africa in a typical Afrikaans home.  Spending my time barefoot in a tree, building a fort underneath the YoYo water tank almost 2 storeys up while using an irrigation pipe to slide down like a fireman.  Fitting a cable from the top of a windmill to a tree to build a foofie slide (zipline), hoping to miss the springs sticking out from a torn mattress when you make your landing.  My favorite memories were on my uncle’s land outside Louis Trichardt where my family often went hunting, it had a long drop and an open-air shower with water directly from the cement dam that made your hair smell like slime!  At night it was like a version of the hunger games, can you make it to the long drop without a Roman spider chasing your shadow?  Game on!  The land was riddled with Baobab trees, and I vividly remember being mesmerized by them from a very young age.  I always imagined myself climbing every one of them, but never could figure out how.  Just looking at one and the mere size intimidated me.  A Baobab tree, God was boasting when he created it.  I felt like showing off too when I names my business Baobab.

As a young adult I worked in the UK for a couple of years and then lived in Cape Town on my return.  I backpacked the South African coast and settled in Pretoria where I met my husband of now 13 years.  We have been extremely fortunate to experience and fall in love with another country all together since immigrating to Canada in 2016 with our 2 small children.  But I miss my family, food and everything that makes me who I am today.   I LOVE Africa deeply - with a combination of being raised in the bush veld region of South Africa, being free spirited and having a strong longing for Africa, it inspired me to start Baobab.  It took a lot of long conversations with God and quite a few miracles!  

I want to surround myself with home while sharing it with all the folks who have the same longing for home.   Initially and eventually, my dream is to open a physical location.  A deli/boutique which sells South African goodies, foods and handmade arts, crafts, and décor.  Imagine a “pad stall” on steroids – that is my vision!

Our little family faced unemployment during covid right after we bought our first home, and everything seemed to work against my plans.  Financing my dream didn’t come easy, but I refused to have it stop me.  I devote the success to – a husband that supports my venture, our 9- and 12-year-old always ready to help with some heavy lifting, my mother in South Africa who constantly reassures me and cheers me on and my sister in Pretoria who is my right-hand helper in getting all the orders packed and ready for shipping to Canada.  All of them unconditionally offering their time, love, and support!

With all this support and my own ‘jack of all trades’ skill set, I started my online store.  I designed my own website and spent countless hours scouting the internet to find African/Afrikaans treasures and artists.  Apart from bringing home closer to all of us across the seas, my search for vendors inspired me to develop a platform that supports work creation, entrepreneurs, and the upliftment and empowerment of rural communities.   

From beaded ornaments, handmade leather shoes (vellies) and hand painted enamel ware, Protea handbags, jewelry, beskuit panne, - Boabab imports beautiful ethnic and traditional items.  

Due to financing limitations and only being operational for 7 months, I can’t stock everything my website lists, but we have been importing a variety of items every month to increase our inventory on hand.  These items can be found in our “IN STOCK” section on our website and is available for standard shipping within Canada and USA.

Boabab serves mostly as a ‘on demand’ basis.  This way we can provide support to many vendors in South Africa and give them exposure and opportunity to sell their items.  ‘On demand’ orders arrive anywhere between 3 and 6 weeks.  For example: when you purchase, your item is made for you in SA and added to our next shipment leaving for Canada.  All the prices on our store include importation.  A familiar saying in Afrikaans “wees geduldig, die windpomp gaan soek nie die wind nie” (be patient, the windmill doesn’t go seek wind).  

We often receive special requests and utilize our vendors in South Africa to custom make or source the item for us.  Our listings grow every month as we add new artist’s items to our store, and we are constantly searching for unique items and vendors. 

We are based in a small town in Southern Alberta, Canada.  The support from the South African expats in Canada and USA has been amazing and we hope to make every one of our customer’s smile when they receive their purchase!  


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