The Tazama African Tarot by Chiria and Bjorn Franklin with art by Sagara Wanjagi is beyond luxe. It comes in this rose petal velvety matte box, the cards are that rose petal velvety matte finish, and it’s got stunning accents of gold leaf. The first thing you’ll notice is the intricate layers of detailing on the box design, and we’re just getting started.
It’s a classic Rider-Waite-Smith deck with no barrier of entry when it comes to learning how to read with these cards. The cardstock is really thick, with a good weight to the deck. Incredible attention to detail is devoted to production value, and it shows.
Psst… per the guidebook, the artist says her favorite card is the Wheel of Fortune. Also, the first three cards she started on are The Magician, The High Priestess, and The Empress. These are fun-to-know tidbits that give you a more sentimental insight into the deck.
There’s a desert sand colored or matte wheat-gold edging to the cards matching that border around the card back design, and the cohesiveness of the voice and point of view here is really impressive. You can’t accomplish this without a defined vision, which means the harmony and efficiency at which the team behind African Tarot needed to be working at is in itself worthy of praise.
I will just say that I’m not in love with the card back simply because of the word “TAROT” on it. Removal of that center band would solve the problem instantly. The pattern is perfect as-is. With the band that features the word “TAROT”… almost all seasoned tarot readers I know are bugged by that. =)
You get a hardcover guidebook keyed to beginners, so if this is your first deck, the companion guidebook will get you operational. Also, the solidarity with which the voice of this deck speaks to you through its design point of view means you always find clarity when you read with this deck. The messages you’ll get inspire confidence. That’s one of the reasons why aesthetics matter– aesthetics craft an experience, and this deck will give you an undeniable magical experience.
The art style is collage, while also having an illuminated manuscript aesthetic. Metallic gold-embossed halos illuminate the heads of the figures here, expressive of holy spirits and a sacred relationship between you and the cards. An undercurrent theme that comes through in this deck is Agape Love. You really feel it as you handle the cards in your palms.
The artist of this deck, Safara Wanjagi, is based in Nairobi, Kenya, and not only is she a business school graduate, but in terms of her art, specializes in digital collage. The premise here was to begin with vintage photography of a person of African descent and then to blend the many different cultures of the African continent.
That premise amplifies the mission statement of the indie publishing house that produced African Tarot– Abusua Pa. Abusua Pa is an up-and-coming publishing house with a vision to bring into being creative and artistic collaborations between diverse communities of the African Diaspora. The phrase “abusua pa” means “good family” or “family unity” in Fante.
Every card, Major and Minor, is given equal full-page treatment in the guidebook. You get a paragraph on the general meaning, then a paragraph on how to interpret the card when it appears in reverse, and then an affirmation to work with. “I’m ready to level up” is the affirmation for The World. By the way, the card meanings in the guidebook are really good.
When test driving a deck for review, one of the things I do now is to follow a spread instructed in the guidebook, then look up each card meaning one by one in the entries to see how functional the deck would be in the hands of a total tarot beginner. With the African Tarot, it seems to have been designed with the tarot beginner in mind. Plus, because the compositions are so faithful to the RWS, you can pick up any tarot book keyed to the RWS and use this deck with that book.
In Swahili, tazama means “to see.” Pictorially the cards convey illumination, light, and the act of psychic revealing. Naming the deck Tazama African Tarot is like a blessing over the cards, empowering them To See.
My experience reading with the cards is revelatory. The energy silences you, really inducing you to sit up straight and listen, To Hear what these angelic vibrations are communicating. The cards feel holy. And for that, I don’t feel inclined to do willy-nilly readings with this deck. This is the deck you reserve for Divination.
While this deck is definitely multi-purpose, its great strength is in helping you to connect to humanity’s roots and for ancestor work. One of the intended purposes the Tazama African Tarot was designed for was ancestor work. The magic woven into this deck and its enchantment seeks to unite those of the African Diaspora and to show the community how To See, to remember their roots.
I found the deck to be welcoming, and the magical programming done upon them, whether intentional or incidental by the deck creators, means they channel spirits really, really well. Or at least I can say that was my personal experience with the cards.
Aesthetically and then the practical implications of the aesthetics, the color blocking by elementals in the Minor Arcana amplify the cards’ readability. In a spread of cards, the resulting shapes and forms of the color blocks get your intuition moving. Without even reading the cards, just that subconscious first impression you get from the colors that are jumping out gives you a pithy short answer to your question. Then you lean in closer, study the cards, and the explanatory details to the answer begin to form.
The art style is part Fauvist (expressive and radical use of color, flattened compositions, and a focus on emotions) and part Visionary Surrealism, where the scenes feel dream-like. The contrast in texture also stands out here in terms of Safara’s style as an artist. In the above photo, for instance, compare the textured grass, tree trunk, the fabrics of the figure in the Eight of Pentacles in stark contrast to the solid, smooth red color block of the background sky. Same with the Nine of Pentacles, the texture from the foliage, her dress, and even the fine detailing in the gold coins.
Truly the packaging is some of the most beautiful design work I have seen, and it isn’t just about how pretty it is; the attention to details is an investment from the creators that pays off spiritually. In the same way the design voice is cohesive and clear, the divinatory messages this deck gives you are cohesive and clear. I found it to be a crazy-accurate reading deck that was also reassuring and loving.
The Tazama African Tarot inspires, uplifts, and will awaken. I love how it represents many diverse African cultures and communicates that diversity to you.
Learn more about the deck and the up-and-coming publishing house Abusua Pa by clicking on the below hyperlink.
Order this one-of-a-kind deck here. The deck is also available on Amazon.
FTC Disclosure: In accordance with Title 16 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations Part 255, “Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” I received these decks from the publisher for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion.