This summer I went on a once-in-a-lifetime family trip to Kenya with my family. I usually take my sketch book when I travel but this time I wanted to experiment with my camera. One of the things I was looking forward to was seeing the exquisite craftwork of Maasai jewellery. Here I’ve shared some of my photographs from a visit to a Maasai village. I was blown away by the beautiful textures and intricate work but what also struck me was how the Maasai wore and layered their jewellery and the incredible large piercings. It was wonderful to see different generations together, adorned with these incredible beaded pieces.
As you can imagine an organised trip to a Maasai village is now a commercial outing, created with Westerners in mind. There are lots of opportunities to buy Maasai jewellery which was mostly made with mass-produced imported glass beads. The colours were more vibrant than I’d expected, and historically Maasai jewellery would have been made from organic materials such as clay, bones, shells and seeds.
Maasai jewellery is made and worn to symbolise age and social status, and also to mark important events, such as, an engagement or wedding. Most Maasai jewellery is made by women and the skills are still passed from generation to generation.
Each of the colours in Maasai jewellery has a different meaning. Blue for sustenance, energy and the sky - but also for the blood of the cattle. Red represents bravery and strength, green is for health, and yellow symbolises fertility, health and growth.
While I was in Kenya I was gifted a broken piece of vintage Maasai beaded jewellery by an antiques dealer and it sparked an idea I’m working on now for my collection. You can see the gifted bracelet on my Instagram gallery here.