Turning Challenges into Opportunities

From a distance one would think that there is a celebration going on. A low hum from one woman builds up to a crescendo of rhythm as other joyous voices burst into song. One has to be there to see the women are not in a ceremony but they are in fact working. The melody of their voices and the bobbing of their heads is a testament for the love of what they are doing – beading. To these Maasai women, beading is an art as old as time. It is more of a hobby than work and the skill has been mastered to perfection. Those that have been doing this for a long time barely need to even look down at their work as they bead, the ins and outs of the entire process are at their fingertips. The women, dressed in their beautifully coloured traditional garb – shukas – and adorned with jewellery of equally vibrant colour that they craft themselves, are the ones who partake in beading.

They live in the greater Amboseli region and are part of a project dubbed Imbirikani Women project, “Empowering Communities Living with Amboseli Elephants: turning challenges into opportunities” which is an initiative of Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta, First Lady of the Republic of Kenya. For generations, these Maasai women have lived with the world-renowned elephants of the Amboseli and have warmly opened their arms to visitors from all corners of the world who come to experience the beauty of their home. This has inspired them to go out into the world with their extraordinary beadwork and become trendsetters in their own right.

The collections that the women are working on are set to infuse traditions beadwork and colours with modern designs. While they are well known for their jewellery, the women are now working on a revolutionary product – beaded denim jackets. The beaded denim jackets are set be top of the line and one of a kind creations. Each colour that the women use on these jackets and all their jewellery is of special significance and a representation of a certain aspect of their culture.

Red: Represents bravery, strength, unity and the incredible challenges Maasai people face each day. Blue: Symbolizes energy and sustenance and the color of the sky which provides water for the people and their cattle. Green: Symbolizes nourishment and production, representing the land that provides food for the people and their livestock while also symbolizing the putting down of roots and the protection of one’s territory. Orange: Symbolizes warmth, friendship, generosity and hospitality, representative of the color of a gourd which is used to share milk with guests and welcome visitors into one’s home. Yellow: Symbolizes fertility and growth, representing the color of the sun which helps grow the grass to feed the livestock and sustain life. White: Represents purity and health symbolizing the color of cow’s milk that provides sustained nourishment. Black: Symbolizes unity, harmony and solidarity, representing the colour of the people and the daily struggles they endure each day, http://beadsofesiteti.com/symbolism-of-maasai-jewelry/. As these women take beading to new heights, they are managing to not empower themselves but to also create an alternative source of livelihood other than farming thus conserving the environment by saving the endangered Amboseli elephants that have been the pride of the Amboseli Region for decades.

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