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Maasai beadwork – The people


The Maasai culture is renowned for their handmade beaded jewellery. Traditionally the beadwork is made by women and worn by both men and women, reflecting their age and social status. The 150 Hadithi beaders all live in small manyatta's (homesteads) on a strip between to the Mombasa highway and Tsavo national park.


A homestead along the highway through Tsavo

Life on the side of the highway is harsh; the climate is very dry and the communities are squeezed between a busy road full of lorries, and the Tsavo East National Park with its wildlife.
When you ask the ladies what the most useful activities of the group are, craft production and craft sales are mentioned most, but also the tablebanking (in which group members lend each other money), and talking about personal matters.


None of the ladies have had secondary education themselves, but half of them has at least one daughter that has finished secondary education. The Maasai have a history of nomadic lifestyle living off their cattle only, and have not been able to take part much in the sedentary style of education in Kenya still today.

End of 2018 an experienced Maasai beading trainer from the Ngong Hills came to teach Hadithi groups how to reach the next level of quality. After a weeks training and years practice, we were able to produce beautifully finished leather bracelets, and the orders started coming in quickly. The number of beading ladies almost doubled between 2018 and 2020.


A few stories of Maasai beaders

So many artisans with so many faces and so many stories behind the handicrafts, we can only fail to tell them all. We can only show you by example, that every piece has a unique and a real personal story...

"My names are Magdalena Zakayo. I am 70 years old, I am a widow I am blessed with five children. They are all married now, I take care of myself. I started beading from when I was a small girl… it’s my passion. I am the best beader in Osotwa group. I have trained young women and girls to bead. Beading is a very important thing for the Maasai because we love wearing beautiful ornaments. I love beading for Hadithi because it has helped me to buy food and clothing for my children." Magdalena Zakayo, Osotwa group. 


"I have adopted so many children whom I take care of as my own. Recently I got a grandchild am so happy. I love the beadwork, it has helped me a lot. I pay school fees for my children and buy food and clothing. Beading is my everything." Neema Lengrat, Namelock group. 


"I was widowed when I was very young and was left with 7 children and 4 grandchildren. Beading has enabled me to buy food for my family. If I am not beading, I like fetching firewood and come cook for my grandchildren." Neema Lendisi, Osostwa group.


 "I have been beading all of my life. I am a proud mother of 15 children and several grandchildren. My children have gone to school, I am so proud of them. It gives me so much satisfaction to know I can earn money from beading. With the money I buy food for my family. Thank you Hadithi for supporting us women. I am always looking forward to more work." Nashoki Sikoki, Namelock group. 

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