The Maasai Shuka

The Maasai wore leather garments for ages. They only began to replace calf hides and sheep skin with commercial cotton cloth in the 1960s.

Why are the coloured fabric labeled “Maasai Shuka”?

The Maasai are an African tribe located in Kenya and northern Tanzania.

They speak Maa. They are also educated in the official languages of Kenya and Tanzania: Swahili and English.

Both men and women wear wooden bracelets. The Maasai women regularly weave and bead jewellery. This bead work plays an important part in the decorating of their body.

Although there are variations in the meaning of the color of the beads, some general meanings for a few colors are: white, peace; blue, water; red, warrior/blood/bravery. SYMBOLISM.
Bead working, done by women, has a long history among the Maasai, who show their identity and position in society through body ornaments and body painting.

Before contact with Europeans beads were produced mostly from local raw materials. White beads were made from clay, shells, ivory, or bone. Black and blue beads were made from iron, charcoal, seeds, clay, or horn. Red beads came from seeds, woods, gourds, bone, ivory, copper, or brass.

When late in the nineteenth century, great quantities of brightly colored European glass beads arrived in East Africa, bead workers replaced the older beads with the new materials and began to use more color schemes.

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