The Masai are a pastoral, nomadic tribe living in parts of Kenya and Tanzania. Renowned for their exceptional physique, the warriors adorn their bodies with jewellery, scares and decorations such as ostrich-feather plumes, monkey skin anklets and lions mane headdresses as a sign of their achievements and great courage. From the early eighteenth century the women made jewellery from brightly coloured European beads traded into Africa.
They have kept their traditions with fierce pride, maintaining a hierarchy in which young warrior’s progress through age-sets until they become elders at thirty. This marks the end of their most enjoyable years and is celebrated with a magnificent ceremony that last up to five days and culminates in the shaving of their heads. The warriors, with their chalk painted bodies adorned with beaded gifts from their mothers and girlfriends, together with other trappings of their success as warriors, display their skill and grace in a ritual dance. The women of the Masai tribe also wear fine beadwork which signifies their rank, clan and skills. The Masai from Tanzania use almost only white beads in their jewelleries while the tribes in Kenya use a mix of beautiful colours build up in a symmetrical and triangular shape. Traditionally the different pieces end up with a row of black and white beads.
The Masai women are particularly known for their amazing collars around their neck. Sometimes many collars are worn at once, and the colour of each bead has its own meaning; the blue beads signify God and the sky and the green beads symbolize vegetation and her sign of peace. Long beaded earlobe pendants are worn only by married women who should never be seen by their husbands without them.
A big thank you to my Flickr-friend Rita Willaert for giving me permission to use some of her beautiful Pictures https://www.flickr.com/photos/rietje/