Taking Tables founder Clare talks to Zakera, founder of Peace & Blessings, about their joint love of being around a table with family, friends and neighbours:
I was introduced to Zakera Kali, by Sarah Ward of the Giftware Association. Zakera and I have chatted a few times since and at Talking Tables we are now offering some of her gorgeous decorations for Eid on our consumer website. It feels like Zakera and I share mutual passions, so I was keen to talk to her within my series of Talking Topics.
It transpired that we chatted in the middle of Ramadan so it is a hugely busy time for Zakera both at work and within her family. Despite being such a hectic time, Zakera kindly soldiered on and allowed us to chat together.
The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is currently being celebrated by over 1.8 billion Muslims around the world. During this month, Muslims will eat twice a day: before sunrise and then after sunset, in a meal known as an Iftar. Iftar is the final meal when the fast is broken and praying takes central stage. Eid takes place twice a year although the precise dates will change to reflect the position of the moon (the lunar calendar)
What do dinner tables mean to you with people around them talking?
In our conversation, it was clear that being around a table with family, friends and neighbours is very central to Zakera. As a Muslim, food is central to her family life, especially within the context of any celebration and especially at Eid time. Like me, her mum was a great family cook, cooking all day to bring pleasure to her family and requiring everyone to sit down together. Like me, Zakera took on the role of making the table a pleasure to set off her mum’s food. As a family they sat at the table to converse, share and laugh. She continues this with her own kids today, which handily also keeps her on her toes with the new era things such as TikTok!
Zakera feels part of her role is to continue her Muslim heritage of global recipes, of gathering to tell stories and feasting around a common table. Zakera just wants to make them a bit more contemporary and beautiful.
I thought it was lovely that Zakera said that if she had a magic wand, she would create a magnificent, magical tent and fill it with all her family, friends, neighbours for a feast. I can picture this very scene.
How does this relate to and have meaning for Eid?
Ramadan is currently happening right now, so traditionally Muslims are fasting. During ‘Iftar’ Zakera will break the fast with family and friends and, of course, food takes on great importance. At an ‘Iftar Party’ Zakera will break fast with friends in an informal manner. But on Eid day, to mark the end of the fast, the gatherings are more formal and traditionally the family elders will host a get together and gifts and beautiful food will be prepared and shared. This becomes an opportunity for Zakera to get into full swing and decorate the room.
When did you fall in love with celebrations and making them look beautiful?
In her parents’ home, Zakera was desperate to make feast days more beautiful, so she would hack up Christmas or Easter decorations to make them appropriate for her own culture. She gradually became addicted to collecting pieces to make the gatherings beautiful and a full-on experience. And now she has set up the business, Peace & Blessings, to offer other families the opportunity to access high quality and cultural specific decorative pieces, such as bunting, runners and greeting cards. The quality and sustainability is highly important to Zakera.
How have you found starting up your business, Peace and Blessings?
Peace & Blessings is now a reality – you are “over the moon” at how well things are going in 2022, with the Eid advent calendars sold out online at John Lewis and on your website, dashing to the post office to fulfil hundreds of orders. You have built up the business alongside your lecturing work and raising a family – so tough!
In 2018 you won Gift of the Year for your range of Eid and other cultural cards, which secured the attention and orders from the likes of Fenwick’s, Selfridges and John Lewis.
In addition, Art File approached you to licence you cultural specific greeting cards. You take time to explain the significance of these events to the shopper on the back of the card, to help say, a neighbour, purchase the most appropriate greeting card for Eid or Chinese New Year. You are getting orders from the public, from retailers and also from mosques themselves.
What are you working on next?
You said these recent weeks have given you a real boost and you can now confidently see that there is a real need and demand for good quality design led cultural specific accessories. You have a roadmap ahead of the new products that you wish to develop and a plan for increasing the number of stockists.
I wish Zakera a Happy Ramadan and the very best of luck with Peace and Blessings.
- Clare Harris