I found a surprise on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater. Jewelry! Beautiful beaded jewelry for sale made by the Maasai tribe in that area. Somewhere around the 1900’s the Maasai and the Europeans met and began trading goods. The Europeans had beads – glass beads- colorful beads. So the Maasai became makers and sellers of their jewelry.
The Maasai tribe in Africa numbers about half a million people. Men herd the cattle and women make the jewelry to survive. The traditional beads were seeds, copper, bone, wood and gourds. Today they use mostly glass. The women sit together watching the children and cooking. They milk cows and build their homes and cattle pens. They also bead their jewelry giving great attention to creating beauty with contrast and balance. Not so different than jewelry makers everywhere.
As in most cultures, the intricate pattern and colorful designs are indications of social standing. The more intricate and the more colorful the higher you are held in esteem.
And as in most cultures, color carries meaning. For the Maasai, red signifies strength, danger, fearlessness and unity. Blue, the color of the sky, reminds the people that they and their cattle are dependent on water. Green is the color of grass, necessary for food for their cattle. Orange is the color of welcome. White for purity – milk from cattle and black is the color of the tribe and of hard times. Color is very personal and culture based.