Maasai & Samburu Jewelry
Hand picked from the Maasai Mara and Samburu regions of Kenya, the jewelry in our Kenya collection was hand-beaded by the women of the Maasai and Samburu tribes. The colorful statement pieces are uniquely Maasai and traditionally worn by both the men and women in the villages. The bracelets and necklaces are often stacked to create an amazing cascade of colors.
Meeting the Maasai and Samburu people was a life altering experience. Brightly smiling faces of all ages, extremely welcoming and proud to tell you about their people and way of life. The Maasai are the indigenous people of northern Kenya and Tanzania. They are primarily a nomadic tribe, who speak the Maa language.
The Samburu are a sub-tribe of the Maasai people living north of the Maasai lands, also speaking Maa and have a similar culture, but with noticeably different dialects, style and colors of dress and homes.
The women of both the Maasai and Samburu tribes play a huge role in their families and communities. As a nomadic community, moving their village from place to place, the women are in charge of building their homes. The women of both tribes have been making jewelry dating far back in their history, originally with clay, metal and wood. After the arrival of Europeans, the Maasai utilized new materials available to them, glass beads and metal to create a new type of jewelry.
Beadwork is an essential part of income and day to day life for the Maasai and Samburu women. Girls are taught the craft by their mothers at a young age.
Seated under the shade to escape the harsh sun, the ladies of the tribe spend hours each day teaching their daughters the craft, while they create amazing beadwork. They make jewelry for themselves, the warriors, the elders of their tribes and also to sell. Selling their unique pieces to tourists and other visitors is a primary source of income the Maasai women use to provide for their families. The jewelry is traditionally worn by both men and women of their tribe and often used during ceremonial festivities.
The jewelry they create are one-of-a-kind, made by different women in the village, each with a unique pattern, color and meaning.
For the Samburu, the first beads worn by young women are always a solid red, multi layer necklace, and as they grow up, they layer on more pieces and colors. For the Samburu, a very special necklace called Mporro, made of doum palm leaves is worn by women on their wedding day. While the more elaborate, multi-colored collar “plate” necklaces are worn by married women during special ceremonies or celebrations. This distinguishes them from the single women in the community. Certain pieces are also reserved only for the warriors, such as the Nakitaai necklaces.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE FOREIGNERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU, YOUR DESIGNS AND YOUR CULTURE?
The Maasai and Samburu people take great pride in their beauty, adorning themselves with incredibly colorful clothing and jewelry, many carrying a symbolic meaning. While the colors and patterns speak to the the region and tribe they are from, not different than in western cultures, the styles of jewelry are used to identify social class, wealth and marital status, especially for women.
Red is a powerful and important color of strength to the Maasai people, symbolizing courage, blood and flesh of the cattle, which is essential to their daily life as cattle herders.
Orange and yellow symbolize hospitality, specifically inspired from the color of the animal hides used to decorate their homes.
White represents purity and health from the cows milk that the tribe drinks for regular nourishment.
Blue symbolizes water and the sky, both essential to the lives of their cattle and thus their own lives.
Green represents the land and plant life of the Maasai, this color you will see less in the the Samburu pieces as the Samburu lands are much less lush than that of the Maasai.
Black is a prominent color in their jewelry and cloth, symbolizing their people, the earth, the obstacles and struggles each must encounter in life. You will see black used to accent most pieces of jewelry.
The Maasai culture highly values family and their community and have a deep respect for their elders and tradition. They have 3 stages of life that are celebrated as you transition between each; Child, Warrior, and Elder.
A portion of all proceeds from the Kenya Collection will be donated to the Samburu Pillar Community Program to fund education for the the Samburu children.
HOW CAN FOREIGNERS HONOR YOUR CRAFT AND CULTURE?