Meet the Maasai women crafting a livelihood from design

Kenya is home to more than forty native tribes. The most well known, domestically and internationally, is the Masaai tribe, despite being one of the smallest in numbers.

The Maasai are well-known in part because of the prominent places they have made home such as the Rift Valley, as well as Kenyan game parks and lakes - but also thanks to their strong traditions and distinctive style.

Maasai woman

A style so distinctive that it’s often the go-to image, when foreigners think of Kenya.

Red shúkàs (sheets wrapped around the body) are commonly worn, often decorated with a checked pattern, while leather products and glass-beaded jewellery have a long history within the tribe.

The shúkàs and the beaded jewellery are popular with both male and female members of the tribe.

Male members of the Maasai Tribe in Kenya, wearing red shúkàs and beaded jewellery.

Male members of the Maasai Tribe in Kenya, wearing red shúkàs and beaded jewellery.

In Kajiado, a small village in Kenya’s Rift Valley, local Maasai women are using this stylish distinction to leverage tourism, creating bags, belts and jewellery in the Maasai style, to sell to tourists; domestic and international alike.

Lois Lasiti, is one such women. By mastering her craft, Lois has been able to increase her income and purchase goats to add to the family's herd.

Lois Lastiti crafting beaded belts, inspired by the Maasai tribe.

Lois Lastiti crafting beaded belts, inspired by the Maasai tribe.

Lois produces high-quality, hand-crafted accessories with trendy designs, in keeping with both the Maasai style, and global trends. She has partnered with a Kenyan based social enterprise, Vijiji Designs, who work with women’s groups in the Rift Valley, to empower female artisans.

- Purchase a hand-crafted beaded Kenyan necklace, made by Lois

As we delve deeper into the community of women working with Vijiji designs, we find a common story; through craft, and an appropriate way to sell it on a global scale, women artisans are becoming providers. They are better able to meet basic needs, build better houses, purchase more cattle and send children to school - all without giving up their traditional way of life. 

Vijiji Designs is founded by Ms. Njeri Kuria, a Kenyan designer who was inspired to create new lines of accessories using traditional bead-work and leather techniques. All products are made using locally sourced materials. Njeri is working hard to support local communities and ensure they are able to continue using their traditional handiwork to make a better living. 

- Purchase a hand-crafted Kenyan belt, from Vijiji Designs artisans


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