The interplay between Europ

Maasai women and warriors in red, wearing beads, have become symbols of “traditional Africa.” Maasai culture is dominated by these colorful glass beads and blankets in red.

The visit to East Africa would not be complete without purchasing blankets and beads. Few people know that these “traditions” are the result of a complex cultural interconnection that took place between Africa and Europe.

Glass beads are actually from Europe. It is still imported from the Czech Republic. The red blankets were originally from Scotland.

The first glass beads arrived in Africa during the first millennium AD via the trans-Saharan trade. They were expensive because they were made in India and were only used by royalty.

Venetian and Murano, in Italy, Bohemia, and the Netherlands, were the first to export large quantities of beads out of Europe into East Africa. By the end of the 19th century, huge amounts were being traded as beads.

Despite the fact that beads were widely available, it took a long time for the Maasai to develop an interest in using them. Iltalala warriors, who lived from 1881 to 1905, were among the first to use more beads as a way to decorate their bodies. A shared age-set is a stage of life that is institutionalized. Maasai age sets are determined by the circumcision ceremonies of boys, which initiate them into warriorhood. Age sets are determined by the time of circumcision.

Their names distinguish age-sets, and members paint their shields and bodies to differentiate themselves. The Maasai began wearing beaded ornaments to make a statement about their wearer when the colonialists forbade warriors from carrying weapons in public.

Iltalala warriors, who lived from 1881 to 1905, were among the first to use more beads as a way to decorate their bodies.

Beadwork styles come and go.

The beadwork on a person’s clothing can reveal varying information about them. Specific colors and ornaments can indicate if a person is Maasai or a member of another ethnic group. Various Maasai tribes use different colors and beads to show their affiliation. Beadwork can also reflect a person’s position in life. A young woman’s belt is other than a man’s belt, and an unmarried woman’s earrings differ from those of married women.

Beadwork style changes constantly within these cultural rules. Each generation has its style that includes certain materials, color placements, and symbols. In a spirit of competition, girlfriends from a new generation make new ornaments in order to ensure their men are more attractive than the previous one.

Some changes in fashion are caused by a lack of beads, either for commercial reasons or because they are not available. The blockade of the Suez Canal in 1967 during the third Arab-Israeli war is a good example.

Rivalry among age groups also causes change. Age sets that compete have chosen to adopt symbols of technology. The Iseuri, which was circumcised between the 1950s-60s, used the telegraph as its symbol to represent the speed at which warriors could communicate with their girlfriends.

The Ilkitoip was the next major age-set to elaborate on this theme. A large button eye was added on top of the pole, symbolizing the swirling light blue of a police vehicle. The next age sets included ornaments that featured a helicopter blade because helicopters were faster than police vehicles.

Outside influences

When tourists learn that Maasai beadwork is imported from Europe, they are usually surprised and disappointed. They want the African beadwork to be “authentic.” Some ornaments are indeed more culturally significant than others.

Author: admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *