Maasai peopleslate 1800s–1975

Spencer Museum of Art

Spencer Museum of Art

The Maasai of East Africa craft beaded jewelry to communicate vital aspects of personal identity, including ideals of beauty and strength, age, wealth, and social and marital status. Historically, the Maasai made beads from locally available raw materials such as seeds, shells, dried grasses, and wood. However, when European traders arrived in the region in the 1800s, many Maasai instead used the colorful glass trade beads to create their jewelry. Although this shift in materials represents a rupture in traditional practice, the vibrant shades of the glass beads, such as those used to create this adornment, nevertheless allow the Maasai to maintain and express their deep belief in color symbolism.

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  • Title: necklace
  • Creator: Maasai peoples
  • Date Created: late 1800s–1975
  • Physical Dimensions: Object Length/Diameter: 26 x 18 cm, Object Length/Diameter: 10 1/4 x 7 1/16 in
  • Type: jewelry
  • Medium: beads, leather, rawhide, metal, wire

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