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Maasai Beadwork

Updated on September 1, 2017
Kenyan flag bead bracelet
Kenyan flag bead bracelet

The Maasai are a group of semi-nomadic people who live in Kenya and northern Tanzania. They are among the best known ethnic groups in Africa because they live near many game parks of East Africa which are visited every year by thousands of tourists from all over the world.
The Maasai women create beautiful jewelry made from beads. The jewelry has a lot of meaning in the Maasai culture. Before the Maasai had contact with the Europeans, they used natural materials such as clay, wood, bone and copper to make their beads. But since the later 19th century, they have mainly used glass beads.
The colors the Maasai use in their bead work have significant meaning. Red symbolizes bravery, unity and blood. White represents peace, purity and health. Blue depicts energy and the sky. Orange and yellow symbolize hospitality. Green symbolizes health and land while black represents the people.
These beautiful works of art are highly marketable and are readily available at an affordable price. Currently, if you walk around the streets of Kenya's populous towns you will find that most people have beaded bands that depict the Kenyan flag on their wrists. Some even get them personalized with their names or the name of a loved one. At about Ksh. 200 you can get the flag while a personalized band would force you to part with between Ksh. 250 and Ksh. 300.
This is a form of heritage and a very profitable business venture that should be supported by both tourists and locals. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to get myself a personalized wristband.

© 2017 Valerie


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