14 September 2018

Bright and Exquisite Original Quilted Kalimba Bags

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

These are made by Louise Sloman-Fuller, now retired from African Musical Instruments in South Africa

Once you have made the investment and bought a nice kalimba, your choices for how to protect it have been somewhat limited.

I have long recommended that kalimba owners who want a protective kalimba case should take a trip to Target in August, visit the "Back to School" section, and purchase a shapely padded lunch bag for under $10.

While the lunch box option is effective and surely economical, it is a bit soulless. Well, at least you didn't buy from Walmart... or did you?

Anyway, I have a much more soulful solution to your kalimba protection and carrying needs.


I just received a box from South Africa with 40 beautiful, handcrafted, padded and quilted kalimba bags. I find many of these solidly constructed bags very attractive... and I certainly own enough kalimbas to utilize all of the bags (a sad state of affairs that brings me much joy).

And I suspect there are several of these kalimba bags, artfully created by Louise Sloman-Fuller, that you would be interested in owning as well.

Louise worked for African Musical Instruments (AMI) - the makers of Hugh Tracey kalimbas - for almost two decades. She was the one on the other end of the line when I needed reassurance that my next order of kalimbas would be ready in time for Christmas... or not. But we always made it through.

All about Louise and her handiwork, in her own words:

I live and work in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa - where Hugh Tracey kalimbas are made. I was at school here and moved back when I got divorced and my son was 3 years old. I decided to stay because my mother was here and there are very good schools.

As my qualifications are in Fine Art, I started off working in the Art and Craft areas of town and eventually opened my own shop which, sadly, I had to close when I became very ill. My illness led me to study Phytotherapy and open a herb nursery and eventually work in the nursery at the University here. My mother then started becoming frail and she and my son needed me in the afternoons so I applied for a part-time post that was being advertised at African Musical Instruments.

I had met the Traceys (Andrew and Heather) at markets and musical events and had spent some time living in the far northern rural areas, working with women in craft co-ops, so felt right at home when I started working at AMI with sales and dispatch. I kept on making jewellery and was eventually led to do a quilting course and the [quilting] bug bit! I have been quilting ever since.

When I was forced to retire at the end of last year there was really only one direction I wanted to take and when Mark asked if I would be interested in making kalimba bags I suggested that they should be quilted for durability and protection. As the process is long and involved I do realise that some people might not be able to afford them so I have also made some plain fabric bags. All bags are made from offcuts of the traditional cloth that the Xhosa women in our area wear, seconds or repurposed fabric. I am very conscious of not leaving anything for the landfills when I am gone. Every bag is hand pieced and original. 

Small bags hold one Hugh Tracey kalimba in its box (Alto or Treble).  Medium bags hold two kalimbas, or a kalimba and some books. Large bags hold up to four Hugh Tracey kalimbas, or a Sansula in its cardboard box, wood case, or black padded bag.

Qulited bags range from $59 to $79, and budget bags range from $22 to $27.

About the Author

Mark Holdaway

Mark Holdaway

Mark Holdaway has been playing kalimba for over 30 years.  He invented his kalimba tablature in 2004, and has been writing books and instructional materials for kalimba ever since.  His business, Kalimba Magic, is based on the simple proposition that the kalimba is a real musical instrument capable of greatness.  Mark's kalimba books are a down payment on this proposition.