The Maasai people of Kenya are one of the most widely recognized people
in Africa. The Maasai are known for their fashion; for wearing bright
colors with intricate patterns; and for their long, jingly jewelry.
While many people recognize the traditional Maasai style, many don't
know that there is a bigger history, symbolism, and social meaning for
the craft. One of the traditions in Maasai life is the habit of Maasai
women sitting together between their daily tasks. Between their times of
looking after the children, milking the cows, cooking, and constructing
homes and animal pens, women will often sit together and make beaded
jewelry. For a Maasai woman, beadwork is an important way to demonstrate
both her social understanding and creative capability. An outsider
might think that Maasai people have dressed up for some special
occasion. This is normally not the case though. Although some jewelry is
worn for special occasions (such as for marriage or circumcision
ceremonies) most jewelry is worn throughout an entire stage of life. For
example, indicating her increasing wealth and her place in life, a
married woman adorns beaded necklaces as she grows older. Each piece of
jewelry, in its shape, patterns, and colors, speaks of the wearer's
culture. People within that culture can tell a woman's exact status--her
age, marital status, even whether she has given birth to a son--by
observing her beaded jewelry.
What the Colors Mean - Maasai Symbolism:
signifies danger, ferocity, bravery, strength, and especially unity,
because it is the color of the blood of the cow that is slaughtered when
the community comes together in celebration.
Blue is significant because it represents the sky which provides water for the cows.
represents the land which grows food for the cattle to eat. Green also
represents the health of the Maasai community because there is a local
plant called olari which grows tall and plentiful, as the Maasai hope
they will too.
Orange symbolizes hospitality because it is the color of the gourds that hold the milk that is offered to visitors.
Yellow also suggests hospitality because it is the color of the animal skins on guest beds.
represents purity, because white is the color of milk, which comes from
a cow, considered by the Maasai as a pure and holy animal. White also
represents health, because it is milk that nourishes the community.
Black represents the color of the people but more importantly the hardships we all go through in life. It suggests that difficult times are experienced by everyone because those difficulties are part of the same, natural sequence of life. These are Maasai beaded bracelets. Click Here if you're interested in owning one. Find out more about African jewelry on the Africa Imports web site or by Clicking Here to go to a page full of articles about African jewelry.To see a variety of African bracelets and other jewelry items, check out the links below!
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