Basecamp Maasai Brand
Welcome to Basecamp Maasai Brand – a community project with Maasai women in the Talek region of Masai Mara- Kenya.
We work with over one hundred women making bead and leather handicraft with a unique fusion between traditional Maasai designs and contemporary style. And by that creating a source of income for the women while supporting and maintaining their traditional handicraft skills.
HOW TO SHOP?
We will soon open a online shop for you to purcahse the items and get them delivert home. In the mean while, you can send email to us to order any product. email: firstname.lastname@example.org
ABOUT THE PROJECT
Basecamp Maasai Brand was initiated in 2003 with the aim of empowering disadvantaged women’s groups in the Talek region of the Masai Mara in Kenya, and to maintain and enhance the handicraft skills, knowledge and designs of the Maasais’ famous bead and leather work. The Maasai have a rich heritage in bead work, where many of their traditional ceremonies and religious beliefs are expressed in colour and pattern.
Over one hundred women are working with us, and making a positive change in the area. The women’s’ training takes place at our arts and craft centre at Basecamp Masai Mara. We base our range on traditional designs with some conventional pieces and some more contemporary fusions, and all our products are handmade with a high quality finish.
We mainly work with Maasai glass beads and high quality leather but we also try to utilize scrap metal and waste materials wherever possible. Even the thread we use is made from disused plastic food bags, the strands of which are twinned together by hand.It will take you a bit of extra time to tie a knot and some patience to thread a loop, but, that is part of the beauty of the work and a character that we are trying to preserve.
Our fair trade agreement ensures that the crafts person receives 75% of what BMB sells the item for, less the cost of materials. The women are involved in the process of pricing – the cultural significance of the product being one of several influencing factors. Typically their earnings are used for improved housing, healthcare, children’s schooling and clothing. The women individually also save some of their earnings in a savings scheme set up in cooperation with Faulu Kenya. By choosing to support this project you are making a difference and helping to build a sustainable source of income for these women.
MAASAI AND THE BEADS
Glass beads have in big quantities come to Africa from Europe and India as trading goods. Beads were traded as a currency for tea, coffee and sugar etc, and also as a popular payment for slaves during that long dark period of Africa’s history. Although, old traces of ancient glass beads has been found and shows that small amounts of Egyptian and Roman beads came south over the Sahara to Kenya already B.C.
The beads soon became very popular all over and for some tribes they have become a symbol of their traditions, although the small colorful beads themselves are a rather late invention. Before the glass beads spread to east Africa the Maasai and other tribes used seeds, shells, wood, bone and other natural materials for their ornaments. Nowadays the Maasai use the small colourful glass beads for their jewellery.
The Maasai beadwork carries messages, from where you are and to which age group you belong. The patterns and colors in a bracelet are for instance made uniquely for each age group and its the women sitting down together beading that decides the style of the new jewellery they are making for their sons, husbands and boyfriends.
The colour fields in the Maasai jewellery are rarely large and divided by contrast colours The Maasai hardly ever puts similar colours next to each other. A darker or brighter field must always divide the fields of colour. Contrasts are seen as beautiful and as a natural state. There must be night if there is day, peace if war, sun if rain, there’s always a opposite and when those two opposites stands next to each other then it’s in their eyes beautiful.
The Maasai are nomadic people that originally migrated to Kenya and Tanzania during the fifteenth century from the Nile region of Northern Africa. In many areas the Maasai still live very traditional and have stayed outside the mainstream development in Kenya. And they are often seen as a symbol of “tribal” Kenya with their traditional red clothing and beaded ornaments.
The Maasai live by their livestock, cows, sheep and goats, which is the single most important thing to the Maasai, that believes that God gave them all the cattle…The story goes that Enkai (God) let cattle descend from the sky along a bark rope (or leather strap or fire stick depending on who you ask), down to the Maasai people. The Dorobo’s, a group of hunters and gatherers closely related to Maasai, did not receive any cattle, and therefore proceeded to cut the rope, producing a separation between heaven and earth, and stopping the flow of livestock from Enkai. From that belief, it follows that there is a direct link between God and cattle, and that all cattle in the world belong to the Maasai.
The Maasai family lives in settlements fenced from the wildlife. Inside the fence they build their small flat roofed houses from sticks and cow dung. Life in the village is very much centralized around the livestock and taking the cows, sheep and goats out for grazing. The women are the ones fetching water, firewood, cooking, taking care of the children and building/maintaining their houses.
The Maasai community is strongly based on age groups. Each stage of life is decided by the promotion of successive generations to new positions of responsibility. The chief autocrat of the entire community is the ‘Laibon’, who decides when the time is right for the tribe’s age group rituals where each generation is elevated to a new level of seniority. Each level is characterized by a name, the youngest and fittest of a generation and the most elite are the warriors, known as Ilmorran.