Maji Moto Women's Project
“I hope people will enjoy the sight and sound of the jewelry as they wear it, and feel the connection to the women who made it with their heart and hands in the Maji Moto Village.”
The Maji Moto Women’s Project is based in the Maji Moto Village in the Maasai Mara in Kenya. Meeri Tuya is the project leader and the group employs 30 women from the village who are vulnerable to the issues of drought and low employment.
Beading has been passed down for generations in the Maasi culture, with girls sitting with their mothers and other elders to learn and emulate the creation of adornments for themselves and the men of the tribe. Meeri adds, “It is a part of our culture, every girls does beading.”
Maasai beadwork is done by the women, who also do most of the physical work in the village, from building houses to fetching firewood and water, to tending to the children and cooking meals. The women find time to do beadwork when the chores for the day are done. This is a time for them to reflect on the contrasts in their surroundings.
Contrasts are seen by the Maasai as marking the beauty of the natural state of life. For example; there must always be night for us to have a day, and there must be sun for rain to also exist. Meeri explains, “There is always an opposite and when two opposing things stand next to each other, then it is beautiful in our eyes, and beauty is a very important part of our culture for men and women.”
The colors used in the beadwork are steeped with tradition and meaning. For example, 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. White represents purity and health symbolizing the color of cow’s milk that provides sustained nourishment. And black symbolizes unity, harmony and solidarity, representing the color of the people and the daily struggles they endure each day.
Beadwork is an intrinsic part of the Maasai culture. There are specific pieces of jewelry that are used in all of the traditional ceremonies in the life of the Maasai from weddings, to circumcisions, to becoming a warrior, to becoming an elder. The beadwork is also used in daily life. Meeri says, “We wear the jingling ‘rompoi’ as a joyful sounds around us, but it also alerts the wild animals who live among us that we are there. They know that the sound may mean that it is a brave warrior, so they stay away from us.”
In a changing environment of globalization this project helps to keep this tradition alive. By selling our jewelry, “Women can stay in the community and continue to live traditionally while still earning the money they need for health care, food, and to send their children to school,” explains Meeri.