Maasai Clothing: The story behind the culture

12/10/2017

The Maasai tribe are a Nilotic ethnic group that live in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. The word ‘Nilotic’ refers to those who live close to the River Nile region of Africa.

Maasai's distinctive culture, dress and location have helped to make them one of the most popular tribes in Africa. As a result, they often welcome tourists into their villages, to experience their lifestyle, traditions and culture.

Maasai Warriors

The warrior plays a very important role within the Maasai tribe. From a young age, Maasai boys begin to learn the responsibilities of being a warrior, in order to provide security for their families and protect their animals from predators.

Through a combination of ceremonies and rituals, the young Maasai are given training by their fathers and other elders on how to become a warrior.

Maasai Clothing

In the Maasai culture, sheets made from traditional cotton (known as a Shuka) are the predominant style. The Shuka has become the Maasai trademark and is worn in a variety of different colours, such as orange, yellow, blue, green and red.

It is thought that the colour red is chosen because it is believed to scare away animals and it is also symbolic of their culture.

The Shuka is often combined with beaded jewellery placed around the neck and arms.

Beadworking is also a longstanding tradition among Maasai women and the body ornaments and paintings are symbolic of their identity and cultural position.

One little known fact is that traditional beads used by the Maasai ladies originate from the Czech Republic because they have been trading with the Maasai for more than a century.

Piercing the ears and stretching the earlobes are also a part of the Maasai tradition and both men and women wear metal hoops on their earlobes.

Many Maasai people wear traditional sandals, which were once made from cowhides.

Nowadays however, they are often made from tyre strips, plastic or traditional embroidery.

The Africa House

The Africa House works alongside local producers in Africa to sell authentic gifts such as the Shuka picnic blankets and flip flops made from traditional Kenya Kanga cotton material.

Our aims are to offer you a taste of Africa and to help support indigenous communities through the sale of their cultural items.

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