Maasai Belts - A History

Maasai Belts - A History

Traditional Maasai beadwork has existed for hundreds of years and is representative of the Maasai tribe’s love of beauty and complex symbolism. Maasai beaded belts have long been beaded in diverse designs whose meaning remain known only to each tribe or sometimes known only to the beader, although there are some designs that have become known to Westerners. Such is the case with the designs that incorporate mostly red beads where the ruby red beads are known as Inkankane and mean “whenever I see you my heart leaps up in little flames” making then the Maasai belt connoisseur’s favorite Valentines gift. Maasai beadwork is the physical expression of love, tradition, warriordom, marriage and marital status such is the complexity of each Maasai Belt.  

Deep love and near veneration of their cattle might be expressed in multiple designs. Social status remains one objective or example of the mysterious messages imparted by a Maasai Belt. The more complex the design and the greater variety of the colors the greater the status of the wearer. 

The beading was initially created using locally available raw materials such as dried grass, sticks, seeds and shells and then later when Adduce opened to more trade the Chezh glass beads. Each color signifies a clear meaning. Red can also ignite bravery and unity and white refers to peace and heath on a traditional Maasai belt. Green beads will evoke the land while blue signals the sky and orange symbolizes hospitality. Grouped together on one Masai belt a veritable story is told in color.

Maasai or Umutsha belts with their intricate and laborious designs and colors do have an inherent code for the vibrant beads. 

Still woven by the women of the tribe, it is their ration to pass the craft down from other to daughter. In a culture dependent on cattle and thus at risk periodically from both draught and disease, Maasai Belts have opened up a new income stream for the tribal family. 

Maasai Belts are worn by both men and women even over their traditional “Masai Shuka“,or “body wrapping”. It is made using colorful fabric with geometric patterns that is tied over the shoulders or around the body like a coat. Maasai belts can be worn over this garment and beaded necklace and other jewelry can add up to tell a story of the wearers life or wealth.

A percentage of every Maasai belt that we sell goes to support a local charity aimed at preserving the Maasai culture and education for their children. The Maasai belt with its rich heritage is both a fashion statement and a gift of love- red beads can abound. 

With locally sourced leather and a hearty metal buckle. The Maasai belts resurgence in Western culture can be attributed to its rich tradition an its classic timelessness.


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