Support African Children at the African Woodsmoke Evening Fundraiser
If you’re looking for a unique way to spend your evening, experience a night of African culture without leaving Lincoln. On Friday, November 6th, small business Woodsmoke and Chez Hay Catering will host the fundraising event, African Woodsmoke Evening. The event, which will raise money for the children of the African artists featured by Woodsmoke, will take place from 6 to 11 p.m. at Chez Hay (210 N 14th St.).
Attendees will be able to sample boutique wines from small South African vineyards, coffees from Kenya and Ethiopia, and various entrees from all over the African continent prepared by Sean Carmichael of Chez Hay.Lead drummer Michael Opoku from the Lincoln band Ashanti will provide music. Various arts and crafts from Africa, all of which are available from Woodsmoke, will be on display.
“In Africa, the state generally doesn't pay for the kids to go to school. The artists have to pay for their children and often they can't afford it,” stated Woodsmoke's owner, Sean Coetzee. Coetzee estimated that it costs a total of $450 to send a child to school for a year, which includes the cost of supplies and clothing.
Born and raised in South Africa, Coetzee came to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on a tennis scholarship. After sustaining an injury, he had more time to expose the people around him to the culture of Africa, and as a result, started Woodsmoke while he was still a student.
The business distributes handmade African products to customers within the United States. An important aspect of Woodsmoke is its focus on giving back to the African artists and communities at a grassroots level. The name of the company stems from Coetzee's love of his home country and continent.
“I have a huge passion for Africa. There are so many good parts of Africa that aren't showcased in the news. I really wanted to highlight the greatness of African culture.”
The term ‘Woodsmoke’ signifies the greatness of the African people, culture, landscape and wildlife. Coetzee also likened the word to the sensation of the smoke from campfires—ubiquitous all over Africa—seeping into one's skin.
“The African wood smoke [that] stays in your blood. You can see people across the board who grew up in Africa finds something special about it.”
All of Woodsmoke's products are housed in Coetzee's office and can be bought via Woodsmoke's website. The inventory is as varied as Africa itself. Some of these unique items include baskets woven from telephone wires.
“They're handmade and (the artist) weaves them around campfires at night out of recycled telephone wires. These are a really unique product, museum quality product. They started from the Zulu people [of South Africa] and they are really good weavers. Most of my products come from Kenya or South Africa,” Coetzee states, however, he receives work from artists all over Africa.
Most importantly, Coetzee does not remain faceless to the artists who supply him with his inventory. He frequently travels back and forth to Africa to replenish his inventory and while doing so, visits the artists directly. Recently, the South African government flew him back due to the fact that Woodsmoke actively works with artisans there who are in need of a steady income.
“You can see on my website who made each product, what their struggles are, and who they are,” said Coetzee. “The artists are the forefront of everything.”Some of Coetzee’s fondest memories are the celebrations he inspires by buying art in bulk from the artists.
“They danced around my car for an hour. Dancing, crying, taking photos. That's why I'm in business, that's why I'm doing what I'm doing, that's why I'm sitting in the office doing accounting, doing things I don't want to do—just to make an impact on their lives.”
Event: African Woodsmoke Evening
When: Friday, November 6, 6-11pm
Where: Chez Hay Catering, 210 N. 14th St. (above Noodles and Co.)
Tickets in Advance: Tickets are available immediately: $10 in advance, $15 at the door.
Call Wendy @ Chez Hay 402-489-7445.