Haute Couture Fashion Made in a Maasai Village

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HauteWe picked George at a small town along the Kitengela-Namanga road. He was a lanky guy with a spark in his eyes. The kind of spark that says, ‘I am ready to take on the world and will stop at nothing.’ I liked that. I am always on the lookout for such a spark, so that it can hopefully combine with my own and light up a world in dire need for change.

I was seated in front of my brother Mpasua’s double cabin pickup, while my close Rwandan friend Uwineza was seated behind. George joined her in the back seat and immediately began telling us about Njoroi, the locality where he came from. We were headed there so that I could interview a local women group about their beadwork. The Maasai community is famed for their elaborate beadwork that is laden with meaning. They have been weaving this beadwork for centuries, even if the material used to weave the beadwork has changed over time.

It took us almost an hour to cover a distance of less than ten kilometers. This slow speed was occasioned by the slopping, rocky terrain that only allowed a crawl from the car. At some point, about a kilometer from our destination, all we could see were expansive plains and rolling hills. Plus a few zebras and gazelles. A stunning sight.

George regarded these wildlife as if they were merely goats. He was used to seeing them on an almost daily basis. But Uwineza couldn’t hold back her excitement. Neither could I. I may have seen wildlife countless more times than her but zebras, gazelles and their fellow wildlife still take my breath away every time I see them.

We arrived at Njoroi to find a group of about thirty women sitting on the ground in a huddle. A few meters away was a manyatta, the loaf-shaped traditional Maasai House that is made from mud, sticks, grass and cow dung.

“Can we enter that traditional house later on?” Uwineza whispered in my ear.

“Sure,” I answered and added with a mischievous glint, “but only if we shall use it to experience love.”

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All the women were bedecked in colorful bead-work jewelry that looked dazzling in the late afternoon sunshine. One of the them was Miriam, George’s mother. She was wearing Nborro, a long necklace with blue beads. Also among them was Elizabeth Kanyuaya, a jovial octogenarian with a beautiful wide smile.

The old lady talked about her lifelong relationship with Maasai jewelry, “since my childhood until now, I have crafted all manner of beaded jewelry. When I was still young, we used to make even more different types of these bracelets. But times are changing and everything is changing. Back then, we used to make belts using raw cow hide and not processed leather as is the case these days. Nowadays our beaded jewelry is a lot more commercialized.”

Her words triggered in me images of centuries gone by when the Maasai weaved these beadwork jewelry purely for their own cultural and ornamental use.

The advantage of commercializing this jewelry is the fact that Maasai culture and fashion have now spread all over the world courtesy of these incredible beaded Maasai jewelry.

I went on to tell the women that through Sasafrica.Shop my African products E-commerce website, we would find for them a wider global market for their products. So help me God. I will ensure that the stunning beaded Maasai jewelry will spread like wildfire across the world.

And one day, I hope to experience love in that Manyatta.

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