African Tarot: Journey into the Self

This deck is originally from South Africa and is entirely populated with people of color. The scenes are obviously based on Pamela Colman-Smith's work. The art is very colorful, but the drawings look childish. The card titles are done in a handwritten style reminiscent of grade school penmanship. Overall the deck has a rather cartoonish look. There is a strange mixture of costumes. Persons in the scenes wear everything from business suits to grass skirts. The Majors and Court Cards have the same names as their Waite-Smith counterparts. The cards are rather small, measuring only 2 1/4" X 3". They come in a corrugated cardboard box. The title card provides the following description: "In this deck of tarot cards, the imagery draws largely on the African Experience and is depicted in naive art style. The artwork reflects the level of consciousness in our present world with emphasis not only on traditional tarot symbolism, but on the invocation of childlike emotions. The imagery and portrayals are intended to gently guide individuals back into their true nature".

The little booklet that comes with the deck provides surprisingly profound interpretations for a booklet of this type, especially since the deck has such a playful look. Upright and reversed interpretations are provided for each Major Arcana card, and a third section called Vibration is provided as well. The Minor Arcana interpretations are upright only, but each card has a short section modifying the meaning if the card lies next to certain other cards. The brief introduction to the deck also makes the following statement:

"We believe that it is both pertinent and appropriate that this deck hails from South Africa, a nation that chose to walk the path of 'Justice' by 'setting things right' with the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as President in 1994. We are blessed to be able to share a tool which enables a deeper look at the interrelatedness of all dimensions of life: access to intuitive knowledge and active participation in the world. The back design of the cards is inspired by the Shangaan culture (one of the indigenous cultural groups in South Africa): the tortoise symbolizes the 'slow coming of justice'."

I recommend this deck for collectors, and for those looking for a deck depicting people of color. It would also work well for children because of the small size, bright colors, and non-threatening look of the deck.

See more cards from the African Tarot

African Tarot: Journey into the Self
ISBN: 1-57281-020-3
Published by US Games Systems, 179 Ludlow St, Stamford, CT 06902, (800)54402637, Fax (203)353-8431

Review Copyright 1997 Michele Jackson

Page Copyright 2000 Diane Wilkes