Object 3: Maasai Tribe Necklace

May 27, 2021


Maasai tribe is an ethnic group, and their necklace beadwork is beautiful however, we as outsiders wouldn’t realize its true significance and importance. The object plays an imperative role to create and preserve identities of the tribe. Knowledge is acquired about an individual based of their jewellery as it serves a cultural purpose.

The object’s cultural significance links to knowledge that only the Maasai understand. Each colour of the beads in the object represents a meaning providing knowledge of their culture for who sustains and provides nourishment for the Maasai. For example, the colour red symbolizes unity, bravery, strength and blood of cattle which are slaughtered during celebrations. Each meaning is associated with cattle as it’s Maasai’s main food source. And it’s worn to indicate age, social status and mark important events. Communities of knowers, closely linked to their cultures, perceive the knowledge about the Maasai in a clearer way than outsiders would. In conclusion, cultural object conveys certain knowledge, where helping the insiders to receive knowledge and information. To my past experiences in Tanzania, I never realized the true significance of the object. It seemed like Maasai preferred to keep their traditions and cultures to themselves and future generations.

The object itself is an intangible traditional craft in cultural heritage. The object enriches this exhibition with the process of handcrafted necklaces to earn income and provide survival for their family. Cultural heritage for producing traditional crafts is intangible. Women are in charge of making jewellery as a social duty although both genders wear them. The knowledge is acquired through facts, skills or observations. Hence learning how to make the object is imperative for their culture to expand. Beads are usually made from local natural products, but its alternative of glass and ceramic beads have replaced it. This change might have made it easier for Maasai women to produce their necklaces. However, the knowledge of creating the object from raw materials like their ancestors will be lost. Although they still can improve livelihood and protect the environment by selling jewellery which is shaped through culture and heritage helping to define one’s identity.



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